Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has an ambitious plan to design, develop and manufacture 1,500 helicopters in next 10 years. According to a senior HAL official, "100 of those will be advanced light helicopters (ALH), 300 will be light utility helicopters (LUH) and the rest will be multi-role helicopters (MRH)." HAL will invest $4.4 billion to modernize and expand its capacity to execute current orders worth $22 billion.
A mockup of the indigenous LUH attracted attention at the Aero India show. It is a three-ton-class helicopter designed to meet both civil and military requirements. These include the Indian armed forces requirement for 384 reconnaissance and surveillance hHelicopters to replace the Cheetah/Chetak series.
The armed forces overturned the selection of the Eurocopter AS550 C3 Fennec for the RSH, as the program was called in 2009, and another competition ordered. Field evaluation trials of the Fennec against the Russian Ka-226 have now been completed, and the report is expected in a few weeks. To fulfil the Indian Armed Forces requirement for the RSH, 197 foreign helicopters will be procured, together with 187 LUHs produced by HAL.
The LUH will be powered by a single Shakti engine, jointly developed with Safran. It will fly at 120 knots with a service ceiling of 21,300 feet; the range with a 900-pound payload will be 190 nm. HAL will complete the design of the LUH by August, and the first of three prototypes will fly by 2013. Initial operational clearance is expected by end 2014. Production will begin from 2015 at 10 LUHs in the first year and increase gradually to 36 a year. All 187 LUHs will be built by 2022.
HAL's Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) made its public debut at the Aero India show. It has completed between 50 and 60 hours of flying. A second prototype was on static display. Certification is expected by end 2013. India is also considering an offer of 22 Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopters.
HAL handed over the first five Dhruv ALH Mk-III helicopters to the Indian Army during the show. The new high-powered Shakti engines have 12 to 15 percent enhanced performance compared to the earlier version, providing the Mk-III with an extra 330 pounds of payload. HAL has an order for another 154 ALHs from the army.