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Airbus Helicopters (Aerospatiale) SA 330 Puma

Medium Transport / Assault Helicopter

The SA 330 Puma helicopter has gone into operational service with no fewer than 40 military forces worldwide.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 6/22/2018
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1969
Status: Active, In-Service
Manufacturer(s): Aerospatiale - France / Westland - UK
Production: 697
Capabilities: Ground Attack; Close-Air Support (CAS); Transport;
Crew: 3
Length: 59.55 ft (18.15 m)
Width: 49.21 ft (15 m)
Height: 16.86 ft (5.14 m)
Weight (Empty): 7,796 lb (3,536 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 15,432 lb (7,000 kg)
Power: 2 x Turbomeca Turmo IVC turboshaft engines generating 1,575shp each and driving main blade and tail blade rotors.
Speed: 170 mph (273 kph; 147 kts)
Ceiling: 15,748 feet (4,800 m; 2.98 miles)
Range: 360 miles (580 km; 313 nm)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,400 ft/min (427 m/min)
Operators: Albania; Argentina; Belgium; Brazil; Cambodia; Cameroon; Chile; Ivory Coast; Ecuador; Ethiopia; France; Gabon; Gambia; Germany (civilian); Guinea; Indonesia; Iran; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Malawi; Mexico; Morocco; Nepal; Nigeria; Pakistan; Philippines; Protugal; Romania; Slovenia; South Africa; Spain; Sudan; Togo; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States; Venezuela; Zaire
The Puma began life as a product of Sud Aviation designed to meet an French Army requirement for an all-weather, medium-lift, multi-purpose utility helicopter to replace the aging set of Sikorsky S-58 systems in French service. Additional requirements stipulated operation in day or night environments with potential operations of the type reaching virtually in any region of the world. Though originally designed and produced under the Sud Aviation banner (hence the "SA" in the model designation), ownership of the helicopter changed hands when Sud merged with SEREB and Nord Aviation becoming Aerospatiale.

Two prototypes were constructed under the designation of Alouette V (SA 330A) with the first one flying on April 15th, 1965 from Marignane. These designs were based in the Super Frelon helicopters though the SA 330 was modernized through-and-through right down to construction methods utilized. The prototypes were subsequently followed by 6 pre-production aircraft which were evaluated into the middle of 1968. Results proved the design to be sound, showcasing good speed and agility and proving to be reliable for a complex system of this type. Production of the now-designated SA 330B "Puma" officially began in September of that year to which some 697 total examples were eventually produced. The Puma officially entered operational service in 1970. Pumas went on to serve in no fewer than 40 air forces and armies worldwide - from Albania to Zaire - making it one of the most successful helicopter designs of all time.

As an aside, 1967 found the Royal Air Force (RAF) taking an interest in the French-based system as well and tabbed it for their own revamped needs resulting in an Aerospatiale-Westland joint production partnership. This joint venture would also produce the likes of the fabulous Lynx multi-role and Gazelle light helicopters of which both militaries would field in some number. For the RAF, the arrival of the Puma favorably brought about the end use for their Whirlwind and Belvedere series. British Pumas went under the designation of Puma HC.Mk 1.

At its core, the Puma is powered by twin Turbomeca Turmo IVC turboshaft engines developing 1,575 horsepower each powering a four-bladed main rotor and five-bladed tail rotor (the latter interestingly mounted to the starboard side of the tailfin). Distinctive to the Puma design is that the powerplants are mounted well forward of the cabin rooftop above the stout and contoured fuselage and exhaust at about the middle of the design. Performance figures include a never-exceed speed of 169 miles-per-hour, maximum speed of 159 miles-per-hour, a range of 360 miles and a service ceiling of 15,750 feet with a rate-of-climb nearing 1,400 feet-per-minute.

The forward section of the fuselage fitted the two-man cockpit along with heavy glazing offering up excellent views of the action forward, to the sides, above and below with the forward windshield made up of sloping panels. The fuselage also features windows for the crew cabin. A typical crew is three personnel made up of the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. A further 16 passengers can be brought aboard. Both pilots are afforded hinged automobile-style doors while large cabin doors span either fuselage side. The undercarriage is fully retractable and features a conventional arrangement of two main two-wheeled landing gears in lower-fuselage side sponsons and a single nose gear fitting two wheels. The empennage consists of a conventional elevated extension adorned with a single vertical tail fin and a single horizontal tail plane mounted to the port side. The five-bladed tail rotor is mounted to starboard.

As with most multi-role helicopter systems, armament for the Puma is optional, mission-specific and operator-specific. 7.62mm machine guns are the norm while 20mm cannons have also been fielded. In the cargo transport role, provisions were made for the use of an external load hook for underslung cargo carrying.

Notable versions of production Pumas include the initial French Army production SA 330B models, the SA 330C initial export models and the SA 330F initial civilian export production model. Others include the Westland-produced SA 330E for the Royal Air Force, the upgraded SA 330H for the French Army and the SA 330Z prototype sporting a Fenestron shrouded tail rotor. The South African firm Atlas Aircraft Corporation locally-produced the similar Oryx for their Air Force while IPTN of Indonesia did the same with their NAS 330J's. Westland jumped into the fray to offer the Puma HC.Mk 1 for the RAF, these being based on the SA 330E model series. Romania is the other foreign producer of the type, fielding it under its home-made IAR 330 guise produced by ICA.

Notable Puma operators have included the Royal Air Force, South Africa and Lebanon. Civilian-based operators reside in the United States, South Africa and Germany. The Puma was replaced on the Aerospatiale line by the much improved AS332 "Super Puma", this time falling under the Eurocopter product banner though similarly retaining the "AS" (for Aerospatiale) in the model designation.


Mission-specific depending on role and operator. May include machine guns and cannons as needed.

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon

Cockpit Picture

Variants / Models

• Alouette IV - Initial Series Designation
• SA 330A - Base Series Designation initially produced by Sud Aviation; eight prototypes.
• SA 330B – Initial Production Example Models
• SA 330Ba - Designation for SA 330H model when in French service.
• SA 330C – Initial Export Variant Model
• SA 330E - Basis of HC.Mk 1 RAF model produced by Westland for trials program.
• SA 330F - Export Variant
• SA 330G - Fitted with Turmo IVC turboshaft engines; production now by Aerospatiale.
• SA 330H - Militarized Variant similar to the SA 330G; some standardized from SA 330F models.
• SA 330J - Produced with new blade construction; based overall on SA 300G model series; civilian equivalent of "L" model.
• SA 330L - Produced with new blade construction; based overall on SA 330H model series; defintive military Puma.
• SA 330R - Stretched Fuselage Variant of which only one produced; led to development of SA 332 Super Puma model series.
• SA 330S - Portugal model featuring Makila 1 turboshaft engines and composite blades.
• SA 330Z - Fitted with fenestron tail rotor assembly; developmental aircraft for SA 360 "Dauphin".
• IAR 330L - Romanian-produced Puma based on SA 330L model series; transport variant and gunship variant (fitted with 20mm cannon gunpods and side-mounted launch rails for rockets and missiles).
• IAR SOCAT Puma - Nose-mounted FLIR system; 20mm turret cannon; anti-tank missile mounts; based on IAR 330L model series; produced in conjunction with Israeli Elbit corporation.
• SA 332 "Super Puma" – First flew in 1978; fitted with de-icing equipment, more powerful engines, single-wheel landing gear systems and new composite main rotor blades.
• SA 360 "Dauphin"
• HC.Mk 1 - Based on SA 330E model but in RAF service; built under license by Westland; 48 such models produced at Yeovil.
• Atlas Oryx - South African-produced indigenous model based on SA 330.
• NSA-330 - Indonesian license-produced Puma based on the SA 330L model.
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