In the early 1960s, the French and British armies were both developing similar projects to acquire a military helicopter capable of transporting an infantry platoon with its equipment. The aircraft had to have de-icing capabilities and also be able to operate in tropical regions. Another requirement for the helicopter was that it be transportable by air.
The Puma performed its first flight on 15 April 1965 (flight crew: Boulet – Coffignot – Ricaud – Boutin). In order to resolve vibration problems, a new suspension system for the rotor – gearbox assembly was developed by a team of engineers directed by René Mouille. This same system would then be applied to the other helicopters in the range.
In the agreements signed between the French and the British, it was decided that the French would manufacture the Puma (except for 48 Pumas built by Westland, known as the SA 330E, beginning in 1967). A total of 705 Pumas would be delivered, without counting the versions manufactured in Indonesia and Romania. The Puma would receive its civil certification the year after the first machine was delivered to the French Army, in 1969. The first Puma would be delivered to the RAF in 1971. The South Africans also developed a similar helicopter using various components of the Puma. Known as the Oryx, the aircraft first entered service in 1988.