David Oliver, Aero India – Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) showcased a technology demonstrator of a new variant of its Dhruv Mk3 Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) as a possible contender for the Indian Navy’s Light Utility Helicopter programme (LUH).
Featuring a folding tail boom and main rotor blades, the helicopter is designed to meet the requirements of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard for enhanced shipborne operations. Small numbers of the basic Dhruv Mk1 have been delivered to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard in the utility role.
The helicopter is in the final stages of development and is expected to make its flight this year. The overall integration is being carried out by the Indian Naval Project Office to meet stowage, take-off, and landing requirements for ship-based operations.
The LUH requirement, worth over $3 billion, is for approximately 111 shipborne helicopter to carry out search and rescue (SAR), medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), anti-piracy, communication duties, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and have a limited anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role.
Following the selection of Russia’s Ka-226T for the Indian Army and Air Force RSH requirement, Russian Helicopters has launched a navalised variant of the helicopter that features a main rotor blade folding system.
Other NUH contenders include the Airbus Helicopters AS565 Panther and a variant of the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, 24 of which are being acquired via a US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract for the Indian Navy’s naval multi-role helicopter (NMRH) requirement to replace its ageing fleet of Westland Sea King Mk42 ASW helicopters.
The process to down select Indian companies that can partner and set up manufacturing facilities for the NUH programme has also begun with contenders including Tata, Mahindra and the Kalyani Group. It is not clear if state run HAL will be allowed to take part if its contender fails to be selected.
by David Oliver