Indian airshow showcases domestic-manufacture helos

 - January 30, 2007, 10:37 AM

In January the Yelahanka air force base hosted the fifth Aero India show. The event attracted 372 exhibitors, 136 from India and 236 from foreign countries. Few of the more than 60 aircraft at the show were civil helicopters, among them the civilian version of the home-grown Dhruv.

The five-tonne Dhruv, developed under the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) program, distinguished itself as the exhibit that logged the most display flying time at Aero India 2005. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has built more than three dozen of the machines. Six were on display at the show, three of which were part of the Indian air force display group, the Sarang. So far most of the completed machines are the baseline version for army aviation and the air force. At the airshow, HAL displayed all three current versions, including the wheeled variant for shipborne operations and a civilian variant. The Dhruv series is powered by Turbomeca TM333-2B2 turboshafts.

The French engine manufacturer said it delivered HAL’s 100th engine last August. Turbomeca engines have long powered Indian-made helicopters, including the Artouste series aboard the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, both based on the Aerospatiale Alouette series. These were license-built locally in large numbers. Most recently the French agreed to supply TM333-2M2s for the Cheetal/Chetan. That series was represented at the show by the newest variant, the Chetan, another Chetak derivative featuring a beefed-up gearbox to handle the powerful TM333-2M2 during hot-and-high operations. This model flew only days before Aero India 2005. In addition to direct sales, Snecma is working jointly with HAL on the Ardiden/Shakti engine for a high-altitude variant of the Dhruv.

Despite its successes with the development and production of indigenous designs, India continues to buy Russian- and western-built helicopters in large numbers. At Aero India 2005 Kamov general designer Sergei Mikheyev told AIN that the Ka-226T is being offered in the Indian state tender for an intermediate helicopter to fill the gap between the Alouette II/III and the Dhruv. The Ka-226T is a derivative of the basic Ka-226A, with a different powerplant. Instead of two Rolls-Royce 250Cs, it uses the more powerful Turbomeca Arrius. The Ka-226T flew earlier this year, just in time for Kamov to bid in the tender, where it faces competition from Bell’s new version of the 407SE (that machine was on display at Aero India 2005, flying several times a day) and a new variant of the AS 350 Ecureuil.