India test flew its homegrown light utility helicopter for the first time, giving a boost to its military plane-maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s bid to win large orders from its armed forces for the chopper.
The LUH, which is being designed to replace the ageing Chetak helicopters of the armed forces, flew for around 15 minutes on Tuesday. HAL chief test pilot Wing Commander Unni Pillai and test pilot Anil Bhambhani flew the chopper over the HAL airport to test basic parameters, an HAL spokesperson confirmed.
The helicopter lifted at 1210 hours and was in the air for 15 minutes inside the HAL complex. Engineers and technicians unanimously declared the flight to be flawless. The test pilots who had been conducting the flight on the new aircraft agreed with the outcome.
HAL has already developed four highly popular models of helicopters under its belt. Its product range includes the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), the multi-role seven seater Chetak, the HAL version of Aerospatiale Lama SA 315 better known as the light combat helicopter (LCH) Cheetah and the anti-insurgency, close air support chopper known as the Lancer.
Meanwhile, the test flight of the HAL LUH marks an important and significant beginning for prototype testing of this model. This is the third indigenous helicopter product from the stables of HAL after ALH and LCH. The LUH is expected to capture a sizeable market share for domestic and global markets.
The LUH has a maximum All-Up-Weight (AUW) of 3,150 Kgs, fitted with Safran HE Ardiden-1U engine of 750 KW power, with a range of 350 KM, a service ceiling of 6.5 KM, seating capacity of six passengers plus two pilots.
The helicopter is designed to carry out various utility roles such as reconnaissance, transport, cargo load and rescue operations. The helicopter can operate from sea level to high altitudes of Himalayas.
Make-in-India import substitution
What may be significant with this development is that the HAL LUH is recognized by the international industry as a replacement to other light utility helicopters such as AgustaWestland AW109, Aerospatiale SA 360 Dauphin, Eurocopter EC135, Eurocopter AS355, Sikorsky S-70, Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and other models.
Going by the NDA government’s push on self-reliance, the introduction of the HAL LUH in the market may be a highly significant step.