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Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has completed several important deliveries and announcements at AERO India, across its helicopter portfolio. The first production Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) has been displayed in IAF colours since the inaugural day. Despite not having a formal order in hand, HAL has already committed to deliver three LCH to the IAF – company officials say these will be delivered before by late March and are confident of remaining on schedule. This initial batch of limited series production helicopters consist of 10 for the air force and five for the army. Series production will start after a gap of at least two years after production of the last LSP.

It has been decided that both the army and air force versions will largely use the same weapons already certified on the DHRUV Mk IV Weapon System Integrated (WSI) aircraft, though some weapons and subsystems could be customer-specific. 

The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have each received their first batch of DHRUV MkIII maritime helicopters, marking an important milestone for the programme. The DHRUV fleet has now logged approximately 3,00,000 cumulative flight hours. HAL has delivered three aircraft to the Navy and two to the Coast Guard. “The remaining helicopters from the contract are under various stages of production, flight tests and we plan to deliver all the helicopters within the contract delivery schedules, despite production slowdown due to COVID restrictions,” stated company Chairman and Managing Director, R Madhavan

HAL has integrated and certified 19 additional systems on the latest DHRUV variant, as requested by the users; these include a surveillance radar, 12.7mm pintle-mounted machinegun, EO pod, a high intensity searchlight and a loudhailer. New avionics include IFF MKXII and ATC Xpdr with ADS-B Out, V/UHF communications, Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance (TCAS-I), SAR Homer system, Automatic Deployable Emergency Locator Transmitter (ADELT), radio altimeter, Integrated Architecture Display System (ADS), Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), Digital Video Recording System (SSDVR) and Automatic Identification System (AIS). Pressure refuelling has also been integrated. For SAR tasks, the helicopters are fitted with a rescue basket and a Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU).

HAL also announced Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the Army variant of its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which has also received IOC from the air force. HAL is now ready to commence production, even without a formal order. A deadline has already been set by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who has asked that the first LUH be rolled out in August 2022 from the brand-new production facility in Tumkur. However, for this to happen, the airframer says that it needs a formal order or LOI at the earliest opportunity.

The company is presently integrating and flight-testing mission role equipment on the LUH. Importantly, certification activities related to ground testing, ground test vehicle endurance runs, system testing, hot  and cold weather trials, sea-level trials and hot weather high-altitude trials have all been completed. The 3t LUH will replace the ageing fleet of CHEETAH/CHETAK rotorcraft and is powered by a single Ardiden 1U turbo shaft engine from Safran Helicopter Engines.

Atul Chandra in Bangalore for MON

The first limited series production example of the LCH on display at AERO India. (Photo: Atul Chandra)

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