The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, the technology
showpiece of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), soared to greater
heights with the more powerful Shakti engine and in weaponised role.
The inaugural flights of Dhruv powered by Shakti engine and loaded
with weapons took place at HAL’s Helicopter Division in Bangalore on
Addressing the media after impressive maiden flights, HAL Chairman
Mr Ashok K. Baweja said that a simulator school will be set up by
next September along with CAE, Canada with common modules of
training, though primarily for ALH.
The ALH has the utility and weaponised variants, and while
conceptualizing the latter, there was a need for a more powerful
engine for the additional payload of weapons, especially while
operating at high altitude. “The Shakti engine, developed jointly by
Turbomeca (French) and HAL, develops almost 30 per cent more power
compared to the TM 333-2B2 engine, with 19 per cent content of
Indian development,” Mr Baweja said.
The new engine is likely to get the certification by January
next year, after carriage trials, butt firing and air firing besides
various other trials. ``The weapons are being integrated on the
variant. We are doing everything to make it (weaponised Dhruv) a
lethal platform for the military services,’’ he said, adding that
the ALH would provide the right solution for the forces’ strategy.
After introducing the ALH in 2002, phenomenal improvements
have been made after incorporating feedback from the users – Army,
Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, who have operationalised the
aircraft and flown it over the desert, sea and high mountains. ``The
ALH today is different from when it was introduced in 2002,’’ the
Chairman added. Improvements include the glass cockpit, weapons and
“The current order book for the ALH is large and the number
of helicopters required is clearly indicative of its excellent
performance,” Mr Baweja added.
On the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), Mr Baweja said that the
copter will be of tandem seating and capable of operating at very
high altitudes. The LCH is likely to make its inaugural flight
sometime in August next year. On the LCA Tejas project, Mr Baweja
said that the LSP began in March and HAL was committed to deliver
the aircraft on time.
The Hawk production would start shortly and the first batch
of the Advanced Jet Trainers would be handed over to the customer
early April 2008. “Existing infrastructure will be used for Hawk
production after winding up Jaguar operations and the LCA
manufacture too will pick up full steam. There will also be new
hangars for the Hawks and LCA. The order book is firm and the
Company is moving ahead with a clear vision for the next 5 to 10
years,” the Chairman said.
New programmes like the heavy cargo lift and new generation
fighter coming up, HAL too has changed its strategy of business,
keeping in mind the multiplicity of tasks involved. Four divisions
will be dedicated to helicopters.
Replying to a query on Dhruv’s export potential, Mr Baweja
said that the primary focus would be to set up maintenance
facilities and cater to the domestic market first, taking into
account the huge requirements.