Helicopters were much in the news at the Aero India show this week. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) showed the armed version of its advanced light helicopter (ALH) called “Rudra.” The company’s light combat helicopter (LCH) was also on show, and so was an armed Mil-17V5. The Indian Navy’s new multi-role helicopter (MRH) requirement also attracted attention.
The initial operational clearance (IOC) for the Rudra was achieved early this month, more than five years after the first flight. It has apparently been an uphill struggle to integrate multiple weapon systems simultaneously on the helicopter, with the complex assignment involving four major groups of systems and weapons. Participating nations include Israel, France, Belgium, South Africa, Germany, Italy and the U.S., according to P. Soundara Rajan, managing director of HAL’s helicopter division. More than 14 miles of cables were laid and hundreds of hours of flight and ground tests were carried out, he explained. Sighting systems, such as electro-optical pod and helmet-pointing systems, have been integrated to augment target-aiming capabilities. The Rudra has a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and thermal imaging sights interface, integrated defensive aids suite (IDAS) and an automatic flight control system. It is to be equipped with anti-tank guided missiles, which apparently have not yet been chosen.
Contenders for the naval MRH include the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin MH-60R, the Eurocopter EC 725 and the NHI NH 90 offered by AgustaWestland. The Anglo-Italian company previously supplied the Sea King Mk42B to India for the same missions of antiship and antisubmarine warfare (ASW). It is bidding for an upgrade to the latter fleet, and was touting its joint venture with Tata–called Indian Rotorcraft–as a qualifier for the work. This joint venture will begin assembly of the AW119 commercial helicopter in a new facility at Hyderabad early next year.
Boeing won India’s new Heavy Lift Helicopter and Attack Helicopter with the CH-47 and AH-64, landing a potential $2.4 billion worth of business at Russia’s expense, if the deals are signed. But Russian Helicopters still has big business in India, notably as the exclusive supplier of medium-lift helicopters. The country is set to supply at least 151 of these.
The Russians also have not given up on the Navy’s MRH, and said that they could further develop the Kamov Ka-27/28/32 series to meet the requirement. In the meantime, the Indian Navy expects four additional Kamov Ka-28 ASW and five Ka-31 radar picket helicopters to come aboard its new aircraft carrier Vikramaditya when the ship appears in the Indian waters, hopefully by the end of this year. These machines will supplement nine Ka-31s delivered in 1999-2004 and 16 Ka-28s delivered from 1986 to 1991. The Indian navy also has five Ka-25PLs–smaller machines taken from Soviet navy stocks in the 1980s.
Neelam Mathews and Vladimir Karnozov contributed to this report.