Lucknow: India-developed Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) from the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) stable received its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) today, as the Indian armed forces see a large demand for the three-ton class of rotary wing assets to boost their aviation operations.
With the IOC in place, the HAL would now go for production of the helicopter that can be the replacement for the ageing fleet of Cheetahs and Chetaks serving the Indian armed forces since the mid-1970s.
The IOC certificate was handed over to HAL Chairman and Managing Director R. Madhavan by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chairman Dr G. Satheesh Reddy at an event to mark the signing of nearly 200 memorandum of understanding on the third and final business day of the DefExpo 2020 here.
“This is a momentous occasion for HAL. It reinforces our commitment towards indigenous R&D programmes on self-reliance and enhancing operational effectiveness of the Indian armed forces. HAL is fully geared up to fulfill the requirements of its customers in a time-bound manner,” Madhavan said after the ceremony.
The LUH from HAL will be in direct competition with the Russian Helicopters‘ Kamov Ka-226T that will be produced in India through a joint venture that also involves HAL. India plans to build 200 of the Ka-226T helicopters to meet the needs of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. While India’s air force will receive 66 Ka-226T helicopters, the army will get 132 of the Russian platform made in India at the HAL’s facility, either in Bengaluru or Tumkuru.
However, to meet the future needs of the Indian armed forces, the Indian Ministry of Defence could very well now decide to go for the HAL-made indigenous LUH.
The performance of the basic configuration of LUH in all terrains and under all-weather conditions is satisfactory and HAL is moving towards the next phase of integrating and flight testing of mission and role equipment on LUH, HAL’s Director for Engineering and Research and Development Arup Chatterjee said.
One LUH prototype is part of flying display and another is part of static display at the DefExpo 2020. LUH is a single-engine, light weight, highly agile utility helicopter, indigenously designed ans developed to meet the operational requirements of Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.
Three prototypes have been built and these have cumulatively completed over 550 flights under various terrains and climatic conditions like cold weather, hot weather, sea-level and high altitude complying to stringent certification and user requirements.
Its endurance and reliability were established during the hot weather and high-altitude trials where in LUH was ferried from Bengaluru, covering over 7,000 km of distance and continuously flying for 17 days without any abnormalities.
A Cheetah helicopter of the Indian Army had crashed in Bhutan in September 2019, killing two persons on board, resulting in questions over its air-worthiness and utility. Cheetahs and Chetaks have been the lifeline of Indian soldiers posted in inhospitable icy heights such as the Siachen Glacier.