Ready for Takeoff: India's First Helicopter in Years Performs Test Flight
India urgently needs around 400 light utility helicopters for its armed forces. Russia and India have agreed to manufacture Kamov-226 LUHs in India and a detailed agreement likely to be signed very soon.
In what could provide a major relief to India's armed forces, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has conducted a flawless first technical flight of the much-awaited Indian-built Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) in Bengaluru. The helicopter took off at 12:10 hours and was in the air for 15 minutes at HAL's facilities.
"This is the third indigenous helicopter product from the stables of HAL after ALH and LCH. Apart from the replacement of [India's] ageing fleet of Cheetah/Chetak [helicopters], LUH is expected to capture a sizeable share of both the domestic and international market," reads a statement released by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
The LUH has a maximum All-Up-Weight (AUW) of 6,944 pounds, when fitted with a 750 kW Safran HE Ardiden-1U engine. It has range of 217.48 miles with a seating capacity of six passengers plus two pilots. The Army and Air Force together have committed to purchasing 187 LUHs. India's armed forces can use this helicopter in reconnaissance, transport, cargo load and rescue operations. The helicopter can operate from sea level to the high altitudes of the Himalayas.
HAL plans to build the infrastructure for manufacturing the helicopter in phases, and the first helicopters are slated to be built in 2018. A separate manufacturing unit will be set up in Tumakuru; its cornerstone was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January this year.
Due to its lack of modern light utility helicopters, India had lost 50 army personnel since 2010. A report presented before the Parliament said, "of the 181 Cheetah/Chetak helicopters held by the Army, 51 were 40 years or older and 78 were between 30-40 years old."
The Indian military is projected to need over 1,000 helicopters of various types within the next 10-15 years.
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