Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) showcases its range of indigenously developed helicopters at Aero India this year. At the show are various variants of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) ‘Dhruv’, including the heavily armed Advanced Light Helicopter Weapon System Integrated (ALH WSI or Dhruv M-IV) called ‘Rudra’ and Dhruv utility version with skids.
Also displayed are the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and a full-scale model of Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). The single engine multipurpose LUH is in the three-tonne class and will replace the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters currently in operation with the Indian armed forces. With the expertise gained in programmes such as the Dhruv, LCH and LUH, HAL’s Rotary Wing Research & Design Centre (RWR&DC) is now well poised to develop medium lift helicopters.
More than 150 Dhruv helicopters have been delivered by HAL since 2002 to the Indian armed services. At present, HAL is manufacturing the Mk-III utility and Mk-IV weaponised version of the Dhruv. The Mk-III variants are fitted with a glass cockpit and higher powered Shakti engines; the all-weather helicopter can carry 10-16 people at heights of 10,000 feet. With large numbers of Dhruvs (fleet has crossed in excess of 1, 20,900 flight hours) now returning for overhauls, HAL has established a dedicated MRO facility for servicing of these helicopters. Dhruv helicopters played a key role in search and rescue operations during the 2004 tsunami, the 2010 flash floods at Leh, the 2011 earthquake in Sikkim, the biggest ever rescue operation by helicopters undertaken by IAF in flood and rain-hit areas of Uttarakhand in June-2013 and Jammu & Kashmir flood relief operation in September 2014. The Dhruv has also been exported to Ecuador, Maldives, Nepal and Mauritius with the latest export example being delivered to Nepal in November last year.
The LCH is in advanced stages of certification and the newest prototype, Technology Demonstrator TD-3 made its maiden flight last November. Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) is expected after six months, in September this year. The total requirement for the LCH is for 179 units. The basic flight tests have been carried out to evaluate performance parameters. Sea level trials have been successfully completed covering helicopter performance, loads measurement and handling qualities for various all up weights with external stores installed, bank turns and spot turns, low speed handling, single engine performance and autorotation. The detailed project report for production of the helicopters is also ready. To enhance the quantum of flight-testing required to achieve the milestones for cold weather trials, hot weather trials and weapon firing trials; the HAL Board had sanctioned manufacturing of TD-3 and TD-4.
Detailed design activities have been completed on the LUH and the maiden flight for the light helicopter is planned to take place in 2017. The selection of engine (Turbomeca Shakti) and other critical Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) have been completed. A Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) has also been built and manufacture of prototypes is underway. An LUH transmission test building has also been completed. The utility LUH is being designed to perform various roles like policing, urban surveillance, medical ambulance etc.