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Dhruv / Rudra / Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Program

From July 1984, work at HAL was supported by MBB of Germany (now Eurocopter Deutschland) to develop a helicopter for military and civilian uses in India. HAL started with a letter of intent for 300 of the ALH from the Indian government and its agencies, and hoped to deliver 24 annually. Some 110 are planned for the Indian Army, 150 for the Air Force, and 40 in a combined batch for the Navy and Coast Guard. This was followed by contract for 100 in late 1996, but the allocation was revised by 2001 as Army 120, Navy 120, Air Force 60 and Coast Guard seven; all to be delivered by 2015. To meet this target, HAL is expected to progressively increase production every year, going from 12 to 16 aircraft, then to 20 and finally reaching a production peak of 24 aircraft. Some sources indicate that the peak production rate could be as high as 36 aircraft per year. The second production lot contained 20. HAL predicts total military/civil domestic orders for about 650. As of 2002 the Indian military had expressed a need for over a hundred ALHs. Half of the Army's 120 ALH order will be Weapons Systems Integrated, with the remaining serving in utility and transport roles.

The major milestones in the Dhruv program include starting with a project report in September 1970, the switch-over to a two-engine craft in 1979, the MBB consultancy phase during the 1980's, the decision to go for skids instead of wheels in 1987, the first ("official") PT1 flight on 30 August 1992 and leading up to the delivery of eight Dhruv helicopters to the armed forces by 2002.

When the basics of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.'s Advanced Light Helicopter were revealed in November 1984, it seemed then a tour de force of modern rotorcraft technology, featuring a hingeless main rotor, bearing-free tail rotor, Fadec and the extensive use of composites throughout its 12- to 14-passenger airframe. However, difficulties with program supporter MBB slowed the program, and funding cuts and disagreements between HAL and the Indian military-which is footing a good deal of the ALH bill-stifled progress still further. The imposition of US sanctions against India after the nuclear tests of 1998 restricted access to LHTEC 800 - the ALH's intended power-plant. This forced HAL to re-certify the aircraft with the less powerful Turbomeca TM333-2B turbo-shafts. The first prototype was airborne in August 1992, The second in April 1993, the third prototype had its maiden flight in May 1994 and the fourth prototype with tricycle landing gear took to the skies in December 1995. These four prototypes of ALH underwent development flight testing for performanceevaluation and have successfully completed sea-level, cold weather & high altitude and ship deck trials.

The prototype of the Army version was first flown in 1994. The Indian Army tested the Dhruv in the 1999 Kargil war against Pakistan. While the advantages in hot-and-high performance parameters and altitude limitations were obvious when compared to the HAL Cheetah, the Army wanted more out of the TM333-2B2 engine. Thus a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 12 September 2000 between HAL and Turbomeca to develop a turbo shaft more powerful than the TM333-2B2 engine. Called Shakti in India and Ardiden 1H in France, the engine is expected to develop 900 kW (1200 shp). The engine is set to complete its first test bed run only in mid-2005. Around 300 to 350 Shakti/Ardiden-1H engines, worth $400 to $500 million in total, are expected to be produced at Bangalore under the deal. The first engines will not be ready before 2006 and will replace the existing TM33-2B2 engines on the production line. The engine will eventually be the standard power plant on the Dhruv and earlier production examples that entered service with the TM333-2B2 engine, will be retrofitted with the new engine. HAL had a 11% stake in the overall program and Indian engineers are based at Turbomeca's headquarters at Bordes in the southwest of France to assist with the development.

The Army, Navy and the Air Force received the initial helicopters in mid-2002. In March 2002 HAL delivered its first advanced light helicopter to the Coast Guard, ten years after the prototype made its maiden flight. The helicopters cost 250 million rupees (5.1 million dollars) each. HAL deliver 10 of the helicopters to the armed forces during the year, during which the company made about 14 helicopters. Production was slated to rise to 34 in 2003, which would include the civilian market.

The Air Force received its first two Dhruvs (J-4041 and J-4042) on 30 March 2002. The IAF intends to procure Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) as utility helicopters from HAL to replace the Chetak helicopter. The ALH received good reviews at the recently concluded Singapore Air Show where the IAF displayed the helicopter through its display team "SARANG". The initial helicopters would have a conventional cockpit, which would be upgraded to a glass cockpit with an upgraded engine.

On 18 March 2002, the Coast Guard became the first military service to induct the HAL Dhruv (CG-851) at a ceremony in Bangalore and three examples are currently in service. The Army received its first three examples (IA-1101, IA-1102 and IA-1103) on 20 March 2002 and the Navy received its first pair (IN-701 and IN-702) on 28 March 2002.

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore took part in the Paris Air Show beginning on June 15, 2003. The indigenously developed Dhruv helicopter, flew during the show. The Dhruv helicopter had already been inducted into the Indian Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard since March 2002. Two Dhruv helicopters left for Paris on June 06, 2003 in an AN 124-100 aircraft. One of them would take part on each of the show days with a flight demonstration and the second helicopter fitted with a glass cockpit, self protection system and surveillance pod would be on static display. The indigenously manufactured Dhruv was being flown for the first time outside India. In February 2004, 5 ALHs of IAF participated in the air display a Singapore Air Show.

The ALH Dhruv has had a couple of crash-landings - including one in Karimnagar near Hyderabad in November 2005 - following issues with its tail rotor blade. The Dhruv helicopters of Army Aviation were grounded with effect from November 25, 2005. This was done as a precautionary measure after Dhruv helicopter J-4054 belonging to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) crashed due to loss of tail rotor control near Siripuram, 150 km from Hyderabad. The accident was investigated by a Board of Inquiry ordered by HAL. Based on the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry, it was decided to carry out evaluation flights on selected Dhruv helicopters by experimental test pilots of HAL and Army Aviation under the aegis of HAL. Two Army Aviation Dhruv helicopters, Z-1110 and Z-1116, were flown for 31.30 and 30.45 hours respectively for these evaluation flights. Based on the report of these evaluation flights, Regional Centre of Military Airworthiness laid down such modification/rectifications to be incorporated by HAL. The HAL executed these modification and rectifications in a phased manner. The helicopters were grounded for around eight months following the crashes, and recommenced service after a detailed HAL investigation.

By the end of 2006 about 66 unarmed Dhruv helicopters were in service in the armed forces. The armed versions were ready for delivery in 2007. The IAF and the Army are going in for armed versions, which will boost capability of rotor-wing components. The Navy had yet to put forth its requirements for the armed Dhruv. The Defence Ministry accepted the requirement for an additional 39 such choppers for the Army in November 2006, the orders for which would be placed on the HAL shortly. The Army already had three squadrons of Dhruvs.

In January 2007 it was reported that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) would increase the production of Dhruv. Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) officials said that 18 ALH were expected to fly out of the HAL stable in 2007. The targets for 2008 and 2009 were 24 and 33 respectively. Around 65 Dhruvs were in service with the defence forces, including the Coast Guard. Chief Test Pilot Wg Cdr Upadhyay said 10 ALH that comprises the 202 Army Aviation Squadron would soon be delivered at Leh. Meanwhile, upgrading of helicopters with Shakti Engine, done by Turbomeca and HAL, was on at the ALH assembly unit. The weaponised version of Dhruv was tipped for a 2008 launch. The naval armament would include surveillance radar, sonar/sonics, two torpedoes or depth charges and two on course anti-ship missiles, while the Army and Air Force weaponised variants would include a 20 mm gun mounted on the front, four air-to-air missiles, radar warning receiver flare and chaff dispense, four 70 mm rocket pods and two anti-tank machine guns.

Five days ahead of the premier aviation event Aero India 2007, an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed during a pre-event routine sortie at the show's venue - the Air Force Station in Yelahanka - killing the co-pilot and seriously injuring the pilot.

Sarang Helicopter display team flying the HAL build Dhruv helicopters participated in the Farnborough Air Show in UK from 16 to 30 Jul 08. Farnborough Air Show in Britain is considered to be the one of the biggest Air Show in the world. It would be the first time that an IAF team is participating in the Air Show. The team had participated earlier in Weddington International Air Show and Royal International Air Tattoo to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Royal Air Force. Sarang team is one among two such helicopter display teams in the world the other being the Blue Eagle team of UK.

In June 2008 the Indian Navy asked Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to improve the naval version of the advanced light helicopter (ALH) 'Dhruv' before more of the flying machines are inducted into the service. Though the Navy have asserted that it had not "written off" the helicopter as speculated, it wanted HAL to work on certain suggestions to make 'Dhruv' fulfill the requirements of the Navy.

By mid-2008 the Indian Navy has virtually written off the naval variant of the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH), saying it had failed to meet basic operational requirements. The navy, which operated a fleet of six [or eight] ALHs, decided against placing further orders with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Navy officials said that the ALH lacked the desired endurance for mission requirements. The navy is also not satisfied with the chopper's rotor blade folding mechanism for storage on warships and its payload capacity. The requirement of Blade Folding with a width of 3.5 meters was not feasible due to the inherent design characteristics of the ALH hingeless Main Rotor Blade with an Integrated Dynamic System. The navy wanted a helicopter to spend 2 hours and 20 minutes on task (i.e. airborne with its task payload), and have an additional reserve of 20 minutes. The Dhruv is simply not capable of meeting this requirement, which is beyond the inherent payload capacity of any 5.5 ton class helicopter and can be met with difficulty by a 10-ton class helicopter. Originally the prototype was powered by navalised and corrosion-resistant twin Rolls-Royce CTS800 engines preferred by the Indian Navy. However, HAL has instead settled for the Ardiden/Shakti engine that was not navalised.

As of mid-2008 it was planned that the Air force would induct 38 indigenous Dhruv helicopters and 16 of its armed versions with a glass cockpit and new engines.

Nepal is receiving three. In a joint venture with Israel Aircraft Industries, the Dhruv is offered for export with a Lahav avionics package, featuring a glass cockpit and Doppler/GPS navigation.

An Advanced Light Helicopter Mk-IV army version 'Rudra' was handed over by Dr RK Tyagi, Chairman, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to Lt Gen Narendra Singh, Deputy Chief of Army Staff (P & S), Indian Army during AERO India 2013 at Yelahanka Air Base, Bangalore 08-February, 2013. At the outset of the ceremony, Shri P Soundara Rajan, Managing Director said “Rudra, first armoured helicopter - is the Mk IV variant of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) designed and manufactured by HAL. This helicopter is fitted with Day and Night Targeting systems and can carry a mix of weapons (70 rockets, anti-tank missiles, air to air missiles and 20 mm turret gun), providing the required capability to search and destroy any targets”.

The first squadron of Rudra helicopters, the weaponised version of Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALH) manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), was raised August 2013 in Bangalore and later deployed in the western sector facing Pakistan.

In March 2017 HAL signed a contract for supply of 32 ALH to boost the maritime security capabilities of the Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG).

On September 4, 2017 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited signed one more contract for supply of Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH). The contract was for 40 ALH to the Indian Army and one to the Indian Navy. “The latest order reflects the trust on HAL’s capabilities and gives an impetus to make-in-India campaign. It reposes faith of Indian Defence forces in indigenous ALH which has been serving them with distinction for a long time”, says Mr. T. Suvarna Raju, CMD-HAL. The contracts for supply of 41 ALHs amounting around Rs 6100 crores will be executed in a period of 60 months. The contract was signed between MoD and HAL in New Delhi. Officials from MoD, Indian Army, Indian Navy and HAL were present during the event.

For the first time in Indian history, as a major boost to defence manufacturing and Government’s ‘Make-in-India’ initiative, on February 16, 2018 HAL offered the indigenous ‘Advanced Light Helicopter-Dhruv’ (Civil version) for manufacturing to potential Indian private companies through Transfer of Technology. Accordingly, the Company has invited Expression of Interest (EOI) for identification of Indian Partner. “Considering the increasing need of helicopters in civil operations of the country, this will be a mega deal from HAL which is the OEM and Licensor”, said Mr. T. Suvarna Raju, CMD, HAL.

HAL is the Design Authority and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of ALH-Dhruv. The Company was now looking forward to develop a reliable Indian Partner (IP) to service the potential demand to different customers in civil sector in shorter time span. The selected Indian Partner would also be required to provide support to the customers throughout the life of the product (20 years) thereby ensuring long term business relationship. As a technology provider, HAL would provide transfer of technology through license and transfer of know – how, technical assistance and license rights for production of ALH-Dhruv (Civil) for the selected business partner.

HAL was looking for the Indian Partner, who has the capability of having five years of experience in engineering/aerospace industry (including manufacturing and assembly), having net worth of Rs 2000 crores and minimum turnover of Rs 2500 crores, possessing skilled and qualified manpower, registered in India or having majority holding by Indian stakeholders and willing to enter strategic collaboration with HAL.

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Page last modified: 01-03-2018 18:35:42 ZULU