HAL to develop two new choppers

HAL to develop two new choppers

Bangalore: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, India’s state-run aircraft maker, plans to design and manufacture two new helicopters in an effort to meet growing demand from India’s military.

The two models are a lighter and smaller craft than the company’s Dhruv advanced light helicopter and a heavier 10-tonne multi-role helicopter that can lift cargo and troops to high-altitude regions in the Himalayas and the North Eastern parts of the country.

HAL said that the 10-tonne helicopter, which will be similar to the MI-17 of the Russians, will be jointly developed with a yet to be identified foreign collaborator; it did not disclose details of the light helicopter.

“We presently have an observation helicopter in the three tonne class like the Chetak; Dhruv is in the six tonne class and we want one in a heavier class," said Ashok K Baweja, chairman, HAL at a seminar on helicopter technology organized by the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industry (SIATI).

“It should be configured to Indian conditions, it should fly in both hot temperatures and high altitudes," he added, referring to the heavier helicopter. While no time frame has been mentioned for the lighter helicopter, the heavy helicopter will be built in six years.

However, an industry expert said that HAL has been looking seriously at the ligher helicopter too.

“HAL is taking people of the Chetak and Cheetah (assembly) line and will utilize their expertise on developing the new light helicopter," said Air Marshal (retd) K Sridharan, president of the Rotary Wing Society of India, a body of helicopter pilots and engineers in the country.

HAL has produced over 700 Chetak and Cheetah helicopters in the country under license from Eurocopter, the Franco-German-Spanish division of EADS, the European aerospace company.

In 1998, HAL had announced that it would indigenously build a three-tonne class light observation helicopter designed for operation at high altitudes of up to 6 km though it later scrapped the project.

The company has delivered close to 100 Dhruv advanced light helicopters to the armed forces; these aircraft are also used by civilian customers such as ONGC Ltd.

With 16 factories across India, HAL has a monopoly in building aircraft and systems for the armed forces. “The quicker we do the development, the more opportunities we have to sell them," added Baweja.