The Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma is a four-bladed, twin-engine, medium-size utility helicopter marketed for both civil and military use. Originally designed and built by Aérospatiale, it is an enlarged and re-engined version of the original Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma. First flying in 1978, the Super Puma succeeded the SA 330 Puma as the main production model of the type in 1980; since 1990 Super Pumas in military service have been marketed under the AS532 Cougar designation. In civilian service a next generation successor to the AS 332 was introduced in 2004, the further-enlarged Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma.
In 1974, Aérospatiale commenced development of a new medium transport helicopter based on its SA 330 Puma, announcing the project at the 1975 Paris Air Show. While the new design was of similar layout to the AS 330, it was powered by two of the new and more powerful Turbomeca Makila turboshaft engines driving a four-bladed composite main rotor, and was designed to withstand damage better, with a more robust fuselage structure, a new crashworthy undercarriage and the ability to withstand battle damage to the rotor blades and other key mechanical systems. It was fitted with a ventral fin under the tail, a more streamlined nose compared with the SA 330, while from the start was planned to be available with two fuselage lengths, with a short fuselage version offering similar capacity to the SA 330, which gives better performance in “hot and high” conditions and a stretched version allowing more passengers to be carried when weight is less critical.
A pre-production prototype, the SA 331, modified from a SA 330 airframe with Makila engines and a new gearbox, flew on 5 September 1977. The first prototype of the full Super Puma made its maiden flight on 13 September 1978, being followed by a further five prototypes. Flight testing revealed that, in comparison with the SA 330 Puma, the AS 330 Super Puma had a higher cruise speed and range, in part due to the Makila engine having a greater power output and a 17% reduction in fuel consumption per mile; the Super Puma also demonstrated far superior flight stabilisation tendencies and was less reliant upon automated corrective systems. Development of the military and civil variants was carried out in parallel, including the certification process. The first civil model was delivered in 1981.
Production and improvements
In 1980, Aerospatiale had replaced the older SA 330 Puma with the newer AS 332 Super Puma as the firm’s primary utility helicopter. The AS 332 Super Puma proved to be highly popular; in between July 1981 and April 1987 there was an average production rate of 3 helicopters per month being built for customers, both military and civil. IPTN, an Indonesian aerospace company, also manufactured both the SA 330 and AS 332 under license from Aerospatiale for domestic customers; during the 1990s Iran also procured a number of Indonesian-built Super Pumas.
The Super Puma has proved especially well-suited to the North Sea oil industry, where it is used to ferry personnel and equipment to and from oil platforms. One of the biggest civil operators of the type is Bristow Helicopters, who have a fleet of at least 30 Super Pumas. By 2005, various models of Super Puma have been operated by 38 different nations for a wide variety of purposes; a total of 565 Super Pumas (including military-orientated Cougars) had been delivered or were on order at this point as well.
The success of the AS 332 Super Puma led to the pursuit of extended development programs to produce further advanced models; features included lengthened rotor blades, more powerful engines and gearboxes, increases in takeoff weight, and modernised avionics. A wide variety of specialised Super Puma variants followed the basic transport model into use, including dedicated Search and rescue (SAR) and Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) versions. Military Super Pumas have been marketed as the AS532 Cougar since 1990. As a fallback option to the NHIndustries NH90, a Mark III Super Puma was also considered for development.
VH-34 is the Brazilian Air Force designation of the helicopter used to transport the President of Brazil. Two modified Super Pumas have seen use as the main presidential helicopters, having been configured to carry up to fifteen passengers and three crew members.
Various French Presidents, such as François Mitterrand, have used military Super Pumas as an official transport during diplomatic missions.
During the 1980s, the French Army were interested in developing a specialised airborne battlefield surveillance radar, using the Super Puma Mk II as the host aircraft. The first prototype Orchidée was assembled at Aerospatiale’s Marignane factory and began testing in late 1988; the French Army intended to procure 20 aircraft to equipped two squadrons. Orchidée was described as having a pulse-Doppler radar mounted on the fuselage’s underside, being capable of 360 degree scanning to detect low flying helicopters and ground vehicles at ranges of up to 150 km; gathered data was to be relayed in real time to mobile ground stations via a single-channel data link for processing and analysis before being transmitted to battlefield commanders. The system was said to be capable of all-weather operation, and would feature protection against counteracting hostile electronic countermeasures. However, development of the system was aborted in mid-1990 as part of the post-Cold War defence spending reductions.
In June 1994, France decided to intervene in the ongoing Rwandan Genocide and sent a military task force to neighboring Zaire; Super Pumas provided the bulk of the task force’s rotary lift capability, transporting French troops and equipment during their advance into Rwanda.
Various nations deployed Super Pumas to the Afghan theatre during the War in Afghanistan.
SA 331– Initial prototype, based on SA 330 airframe, first flew on 5 September 1977.
AS 332A – Commercial pre-production version.
AS 332B – Military version.
AS 332B1 – First military version.
AS 332C – Production civil version.
AS 332C1 – Search and rescue version, equipped with a search radar and six stretchers.
AS 332F – Military anti-submarine and anti-ship version.
AS 332F1 – Naval version.
AS 332L – Civil version with more powerful engines, a lengthened fuselage, a larger cabin space and a larger fuel tank.
AS 332L1 – Stretched civil version, with a long fuselage and an airline interior.
AS 332L2 Super Puma Mk 2 – Civil transport version, fitted with Spheriflex rotor head and EFIS.
AS 332M – Military version of the AS 332L.
AS 332M1 – Stretched military version.
NAS 332 – Licensed version built by IPTN, now Indonesian Aerospace (PT. Dirgantara Indonesia).
VH-34 – Brazilian Air Force designation for the two VIP configured Super pumas, serial numbers 8737 and 8740
24 passengers plus attendant / 4,490 kg (9,899 lb)
16.79 m (55 ft 1 in) fuselage 18.7 m (61 ft) rotor turning
4.97 m (16 ft 4 in)
Main rotor diameter
16.2 m (53 ft 2 in)
9,150 kg (20,172 lb)
4,660 kg (10,274 lb)
Maximum speed (Vne)
327 km/h (203 mph, 177 kn)
Cruising speed at sea level
277 km/h (172 mph, 150 kn)
Ascent speed at sea level
7.4 m/s (1,460 ft/min)
Ceiling in service
5,180 m (16,990 ft)
Passable distance at sea level with standard reserve