India's Light Helicopters Take Maiden Flight, Commercial Production Soon
15:50 23.05.2017(updated 19:11 23.05.2017)
Close on the heels of the maiden flight of HTT-40 (PT-2), the second prototype of India's indigenously built single-engine, three-ton light utility helicopter (LUH) made its maiden flight on Monday at its facility in Bengaluru. The flight was conducted without any snag in 22 minutes.
New Delhi (Sputnik) – LUH manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has modified the second prototype based on feedback after testing the first prototype on September 6, 2016. Further expansion flights are in progress.
The helicopter has a maximum all-up-weight (AUW) of 3,150 kg, fitted with Safran HE Ardiden-1U engine of 750 KW power, with a range of 350 km and a seating capacity of six passengers plus two pilots. The helicopter will be capable of flying at 220 kmph, with a service ceiling of 6.5 km. The helicopter can operate from sea level to high altitudes of the Himalayas.
"These maiden flights of indigenous aircrafts are testimony to HAL's rapid progress towards 'Make in India' campaign both in fixed and rotary wing segments. These prototypes add strength to ongoing test flights to achieve operational clearance cutting the time frame," T. Suvarna Raju, chairman and managing director, HAL, said.
HAL is expected to freeze the helicopter configuration by the end of this year following intense flight testing on both the prototype in the months ahead. The LUH will be built at HAL's new facility at Tumakuru, where the foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January last year. HAL estimates the Tumakuru plant will ship about 30 LUHs annually, starting in 2019-20 and manufacture 60 helicopters per year from 2023.
India's state-owned HAL has been developing 3-ton class new generation helicopter to provide 187 LUH in overall requirements of more than 400 by the armed forces in this category. The helicopter with glass cockpit will be deployed for reconnaissance, surveillance roles and as a light transport helicopter.
Earlier this month, India and Russia incorporated a joint venture company, named India-Russia Helicopters Limited, to manufacture and assemble much needed 140 multi-role helicopters for the Indian Air Force. Under the deal for 200 Kamov Ka-226Ts, 60 helicopters will be received in fly-away condition from Russia while another 40 will be assembled in India and the remaining 100 fully built in India.
Many experts argued that LUH development may hamper the Defense Ministry's interest in Kamov 226 T.
"Kamov-226 is a bird in hand; LUH is bird in the bush. HAL has been conducting LCH trials for 6 years. The helicopter has yet to receive operational clearance. LUH is unlikely to be operational for another 5 years if all goes well. And if all doesn't go well, it is anybody's guess," Vijainder K. Thakur, editor, Geopolitics, and retired IAF squadron leader, told Sputnik.
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