The Royal Air Force Puma Helicopters that are deployed to Afghanistan have continued to operate despite the challenges the aircrew face from the Afghan winter, snow and mountainous terrain.
The Pumas from RAF Benson are deployed to Afghanistan to provide helicopter support to the deployed NATO forces stationed there conducting the ongoing training and advisor mission with the Afghan Security Forces.
Sqn Ldr Max Bond, the Officer Commanding the UK’s Toral Aviation Detachment, said: “Operating the aircraft is always a challenge because of Kabul’s altitude and congested airspace, but this is further compounded during the winter months by degraded visibility, sub-zero temperatures and occasional heavy snow fall.
“Despite this, we have been able to maintain our core activities and have recently conducted training with the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles to make sure we are ready and able to provide an airborne Quick Reaction Force for the NATO mission if required.”
The soldiers of 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles are the lead battlegroup in the NATO Kabul Protection Unit.
They work alongside other NATO allies and the wider international community to form part of the Kabul Security Force, which provides force protection to NATO’s Train, Advise, Assist mission known as Resolute Support.
The RAF Puma detachment and Gurkhas soldiers combined training focusses on interoperability between the infantry and helicopters. This training ensures the Gurkhas are familiar with the Puma and its capabilities and develops tactical methods to ensure that both are ready and able to conduct missions if called upon.
Air Cdre Dean Andrew, the Deputy Commander NATO Air Component - Afghanistan said: “The Op TORAL Puma detachment is the movement asset of choice in Kabul for NATO.
"The agility and capability of the crews and aircraft support the NATO mission daily, in all conditions.”