New Chopper In Armed Forces –
The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH)
Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) successfully completed the first test flight of its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) earlier this year in September. The LUH that was test flown was an indigenously developed prototype helicopter.
With LUH, India has built capabilities in the light category of helicopters to serve both armed and civilian needs. HAL has its workhorse chopper Advanced Light Helicopter, the 5.5 tonne twin engine chopper that is being used by the armed forces and has built the Light Combat Helicopter - India's helicopter gunship that is undergoing trials for certification.
The test flight took place in Bengaluru and the helicopter hovered in the air for 15 minutes. HAL termed its first flight to be “flawless”.
Why Indian Armed Forces need this latest advancement?
- The LUH program has been in the works since 2008, when the armed forces projected a requirement for a light chopper that could carry troops and supplies to border areas. More than 200 choppers are needed by the three armed forces.
- The LUH is expected to replace two types in service with the Indian military. These are the Cheetah, which is derived from the Aerospatiale (now Airbus Helicopters) SA 315B, and the Chetak, derived from the Aloutte III.
- This is the third indigenous helicopter coming out of HAL. Earlier, HAL successfully bought out HAL Druv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), utility helicopter and HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH).
- The chopper can apparently operate from sea level to places of high altitude, especially the Himalayas.
- The LUH has a maximum All-Up-Weight (AUW) of 3,150 kg.
- It boasts a Safran HE Ardiden-1U engine of 750 KW power and has a range of 350 km.
- It has a service ceiling of 6,500m and can carry 6 passengers and 2 flight crew.
- The helicopter is designed to carry out various utility roles such as reconnaissance, transport, cargo, and rescue operations. It can also operate from sea levels to the high altitudes of the Himalayas.
- After completing all the formalities, the LUH is expected to be introduced in both domestic as well as international markets, competing with the likes of Agusta Westland AW109, Aerospatiale SA 360 Dauphin, Eurocopter EC135, Eurocopter AS355, Sikorsky S-70 and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, among others.
The twin-engine Dhruv ALH, which is a five-tonne class helicopter, was initially sold by HAL to the military for about Rs 40 crore, but the current order is likely to be priced at Rs 65-70 crore ($10 million). By that yardstick, industry analysts estimate the smaller LUH would be delivered at about Rs 40 crore per piece; and the 200-helicopter order would be worth Rs 8,000 crore.