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May - 2013 ISSUE

Force Magazine
Coming of Age - June 2012
HAL would be the third largest producer of light military helicopters by 2020
 
By Atul Chandra

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) began deliveries of the Dhruv MK-3 to Indian Army Aviation units and the Indian Air Force last year. Work is also progressing on the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), both projects of high importance to the IAF and Army. According to Forecast International, HAL is projected to become the third largest manufacturer of light military helicopters between 2011-2020, with Eurocopter being the largest and Agusta Westland, becoming the second largest.

Advanced Light Helicopter
HAL began delivery of the Dhruv MK-3 with higher powered Shakti engine to the Indian Army and IAF last year. Further batches will be delivered this year. HAL has firm orders for 159 and sees a requirement for a minimum of 80 more. HAL is working on adding VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR), Distance measuring equipment (DME) and instrument landing system (ILS) to Dhruv. The VOR, DME and ILS are undergoing integration at present and slated to be available for operational use by end of this year.

A few IAF and Ecuador Dhruv helicopters had already been incorporated with Standalone VOR, DME and ILS. An Active Vibration Control System (AVCS) has also been used to reduce vibration levels. Going forward, Dhruv will be fitted with a Helmet Pointing System (HPS), Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite with advanced Laser Warning (LWR) systems, Missile Warning (MWR) systems, Electro Optical (EO) pod and an Automatic Flare and Chaff Dispenser (FCD). SAAB Electronic Defence Systems has been chosen by HAL to integrate its IDAS/CIDAS system on Dhruv. The Dhruv Mk-3, glass cockpit features one of best contemporary helicopter cockpits, with an excellent Man Machine Interface (MMI). While the hardware and software for the glass cockpit were developed with foreign assistance, it has given HAL designers and test crew an invaluable insight into this vital area. The Mk-3 features an advanced glass cockpit with Integrated Standby Instrument System (ISIS).The Standby Engine Instrument (SEI) provides emergency engine information when all the Multi Function Displays (MFDs) go blank or the computer fails.

Initial variants of the Dhruv had a number of teething problems, this coupled with lack of sufficient spares led to poor maintainability and flight line availability, especially of the Limited Series Production (LSP) and later on with the Mk-I / MK-II Dhruv helicopters. In fact, while the Dhruv is much praised for its excellent flying qualities, its maintenance and serviceability has been a matter of concern and proven to be a continuous challenge. An important step towards reducing issues faced has been the co-location of Army and IAF test teams at Bangalore and the IAF’s CSDO and the army’s MAG Aviation has resulted in improved interaction and feedback from the customers at the design and integration phase.

That said, the Time Before Overhaul (TBO) needs to be substantially increased from its current incremental overhaul life and HAL is working towards this requirement. HAL has taken a very serious look at the maintenance requirements of Dhruv and a full fledged division has been formed to take care of major servicing at Bangalore. The Dhruv fleet has now clocked more than 55,000 flying hours till date and HAL has used the data collected to analyse the rate of failures and maintenance and servicing requirements.

According to HAL, the areas that need focused attention are: Reducing the turnaround time for servicing, improve customer satisfaction, enhance capability of customer to undertake servicing by themselves. Customers have been trained to carry out periodic servicing at the bases and the necessary support and testing equipment to facilitate periodic servicing of Dhruv at bases have been established. The ultimate proof of the Dhruv’s success will be when it is available in sufficient numbers on the flight line to accomplish the operational flying tasks required of it, with the necessary service and back up support.

Light Combat Helicopter
Both TD-1 and TD-2 are flying, with TD-2 making its maiden flight in June last year. The two helicopters have completed in excess of 100 flights thus far, with TD3 expected to make its first flight by the end of this year. Initial operational clearance (IOC) was expected by 2013, but this is unlikely to happen. TD-1 began flying with modified air intake cowlings for reducing engine installation losses in November last year. TD2 has a number of important changes compared to TD1 which include, optimised transmission system, modified rotor system with increased control margins, use of push pull cables in the tail rotor control system, alternate door opening configuration for doors opening forward with a vertical hinge axis enabling improved ingress/egress and weight reduced landing gear. The LCH Break Away Fuselage (BAF) assembly has also been completed and tests are under progress.

The avionics and sensors installed on the LCH will have a certain degree of commonality with the Dhruv. However, there will be a number of changes with regards to the glass cockpit, display formats and Helmet Mounted Displays as these will have to cater for the dedicated combat role of the LCH. According to its designers, the LCH would not utilise the general purpose avionics designed for the multi-role Dhruv but will instead seek to optimise weight and performance for high altitude missions. The MMI for the LCH will be critical and while a derivative of the Dhruv glass cockpit is being used for prototype testing, HAL has asked only for proposals from Indian companies to develop the glass cockpit for production versions. The EW suite which is of critical importance on the LCH will be a Bharat Electronics (BEL) and Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) combination.

LUH & Indian MRH
Design and Development of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) was taken up by Rotary Wing Research & Design Centre (RWR&DC) in February 2009. The highly optimistic target of IOC by 2014 will now not be met and IOC around 2016 is more realistic. The LUH programme has very strict deadlines which will see the total order for 187 helicopters being reduced by 30 if there are significant delays.

Current plans call for one full scale Mock-up for evaluation and assessment, a Ground Test Vehicle for extensive testing of all dynamic systems and three flying prototypes to ensure that design validation, flight testing and certification of the basic version are completed without undue delay. The development of LUH has progressed well with completion of three milestones (Configuration Freeze, Design Freeze and Transmission & Rotor Design) as per the schedule. The parts realisation for Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) is in progress. The test facilities required for dynamic and static components/ systems and jigs and fixtures required for LUH assembly have been initiated.

Concurrently, three prototypes will be built for extensive flight tests. Regarding engine selection for LUH, a global Request for Quotation (RFQ) has been issued and HAL has received proposals which are being evaluated. Completion of further milestones such as start of Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) run and first flight of LUH are linked to the selection and availability of engine.

The Indian Multirole Helicopter (IMRH) is based on the Joint Services Qualitative Requirements (JSQR) for which a Request for Information (RFI) had been issued by HAL in August, 2009 to select a suitable partner for co-development of the IMRH. The responses to the RFI was analysed and presented to the Tri-Services (July 2010). Currently, JSQR is under revision by MoD. While it is expected that the IMRH programme could be launched during 2012-13, this could be further delayed.

HAL will need to make massive investments for its helicopter division, to have the required infrastructure ready in time for the LUH, LCH and IMRH production. By the year 2015, HAL plans on having three helicopter manufacturing plants with one in Bangalore and the other two outside. Bangalore will be the centre of R&D for helicopters and 5.5 to 6.0 tonne helicopters. Three tonne and 12 tonne will move out to another location for manufacture. HAL has said that its helicopter manufacturing and engine production line will be co-located and is in the process of evaluating a suitable location for these sites. By 2015, HAL would look to produce more than 100 LCH, in excess of 200 LCH and would have begun development of the 10 tonne class IMRH for which it expects around 300 orders.

 
 


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