Government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has completed high-altitude testing in hot-and-high weather conditions of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) in the Himalayas. AIN has learned that, while HAL is close to operational clearance certification, with some systems tests and documentation still to be completed, it is unable to move much further with production until a contract is signed. However, the Ministry of Defense has not committed to a deadline.
According to HAL, a comprehensive test plan was carried out at Leh (3,300 meter/10,826 foot elevation) “in temperatures up to ISA+32 deg C, which included envelope expansion, performance, and flying qualities.” The LUH then demonstrated its hot-and-high hover performance at an advanced landing ground at 5,000 meters followed by another forward helipad (5,500 meters at ISA+27 deg C). “While these extreme weather conditions impose flight restrictions on all other civil and military aircraft, LUH flights were unhindered, as it is designed for such operations,” said HAL.
The Indian Air Force and Army have for a long time indicated an initial requirement of 197 LUHs to replace the aging Cheetah and Chetak fleet. A facility in Tumkur, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, is being readied for the production of the LUH. An airstrip, hangar, control tower, and some buildings are ready. During Phase 2 the facility is to be expanded, CVS Bhaskar, CEO of HAL Helicopter Complex told AIN. Space has also been allotted in the facility to the joint venture of Rosoboronexport-Russian Helicopters and HAL, Indo Russian Helicopter, for the production of 200 twin-engine Kamov Ka 226Ts, which is also awaiting a signed contract.
The intergovernmental agreement between India and Russia signed in 2016 requires a 50 percent indigenization, for which MOUs were signed during the Aero India show earlier this year. Bhaskar said that more partners would be identified once the project takes off.