Photo by Anand t83
India's defense ministry has cleared Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) to begin initial production of the light combat helicopter based on its Dhruv, the company said.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley visited HAL’s facility in Bangalore, capital of India's southern state of Karnataka, Aug. 26 to launch production of the 12,000-pound-class maximum-takeoff-weight Light Combat Helicopter.
India's Defense Acquisition Council previously had approved the 29-billion-rupee ($437.5-million) procurement of 15 “limited series production” aircraft, and its Center for Military Airworthiness and Certification had signed off on HAL’s design, which is derived from the Advanced Light Helicopter (or Dhruv). The country's army reportedly has committed to acquiring 114 of the aircraft, and the air force another 65. (India also plans to acquire Boeing-designed AH-64E Apaches starting next year.)
The Light Combat Helicopter is part of India's ongoing initiative to nurture its indigenous aerospace design, development and manufacturing capabilities.
"We are moving in the right direction in evolving ourselves into a major manufacturing hub, and in this context today's experience has been encouraging," Jaitley said during the ceremony, according to HAL. Jaitley also serves as India’s finance minister and minister of corporate affairs.
The Light Combat Helicopter features a narrow fuselage and tandem configuration for pilot and co-pilot/weapon system operator. It incorporates an indigenous integrated dynamic system, hingeless main rotor, bearingless tail rotor, anti-resonance vibration isolation system, crashworthy landing gear and glass cockpit.
It is powered by two 1,400-shaft-horsepower Shakti engines, versions of the Safran Helicopter Engines Ardiden 1H1 assembled in India through a partnership of that French manufacturer and HAL.
The Light Combat Helicopter is equipped with a 20mm turret gun, 70mm rocket, helmet-pointing system and electro-optics pod, and is to be fitted with an air-to-air missile. It also includes armor and visual, aural, radar and infrared stealth features, HAL said.
It is designed to support Indian Army operations along the country’s northern border, where elevations can approach 20,000 feet. The area includes the Siachen Glacier, considered the highest battleground on Earth. India and Pakistan have fought intermittently over the disputed border region since April 1984. Each nation maintains a permanent military presence there.