Monday, 8 September 2008

The great helicopter challenge: (Part 1 of a three-part series on India's new thrust in helicopter building)


(Photos courtesy: Ajai Shukla)

The first prototype Weapon Systems Integrated (WSI) version of the Dhruv ALH. HAL will produce 60 ALH-WSIs for the army and 16 for the air force.




The 20 mm cannon, with both vertical and horizontal traverse is clearly visible here.





On the left, you can see the flare dispensors and, next to it, the housing which contains the radar, IR and missile warning receivers.











by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Sept 08
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore

Wikipaedia, the popular internet encyclopaedia, lists the Indian Army’s Sonam Post, on the Siachen Glacier, as the world’s highest point reachable by transport. Landing in a helicopter at Sonam is a hair-raising experience. As the shuddering helicopter bears down on the tiny helipad atop a needle of ice at 20,997 feet, the rotor blades struggle to extract lift from the rarefied air. This is the ultimate test for helicopters. But the army’s new Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) has proved that it can land at Sonam, bringing in much larger payloads than the Cheetah helicopters that have laboriously sustained the jawans in Sonam for the last two decades.

Now in hot weather trials in Siachen (yes, Siachen is cold even in summer, but trials conducted in summer are termed hot-weather trials!) another Dhruv will test-land in Sonam, powered by the new Shakti engine, which has been especially designed for India’s extreme altitudes by French company, Turbomeca. The Shakti gives the Dhruv enough power to carry to Sonam four times as much load as the TM333-2B2 engine, which has powered the Dhruv so far.

The successful Dhruv-Shakti partnership underpins an ambitious drive by defence public sector undertaking (DPSU), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), to build a range of helicopters to meet the diverse needs of India’s military. And the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has recognised HAL’s growing competence in helicopter design by nominating it to design and manufacture half of the 384 light observation helicopters (LOHs) required by India’s military. HAL has been given till 2017 to produce 187 LOHs. Meanwhile, the military’s immediate needs will be met by buying 197 LOHs from the international market.

Business Standard has learned that the MoD has imposed a strict timeline on HAL, including --- for the first time ever --- a penalty for delay. Top HAL sources say that if HAL overshoots the 2017 deadline, the MoD will procure more helicopters from the global manufacturer selected to supply LOHs; HAL’s order will correspondingly reduce.

HAL is confident it will produce the LOH two years ahead of the MoD’s deadline. HAL Chairman, Ashok Baweja explained to Business Standard his company’s plan for completing the LOH by 2015. HAL is already working on the conceptual design of the helicopter, which includes detailed specifications of key systems like the fuel system, the hydraulics system and the cockpit. HAL will design and manufacture the core components like the main rotor, tail rotor, gearbox and weaponry. Meanwhile, HAL will buy less critical sub-systems from specialist manufacturers in the international market.

Mr Baweja explains, “It is wasteful to duplicate the efforts of specialists who make individual systems. For example, there are specialist cockpit houses, which mainly design cockpits. You have Honeywell, you have Rockwell, and you have Thales. Our [HAL’s] role will be that of a top-end designer; we will identify systems and write the software that makes them function together.

“Take fuel systems. Those consist of fuel cells, pumps, cut-off valves, fire protection, etc. We can make all these things. But there are specialist companies that do only fuel systems. All we need to do is to identify them. We’ll control top-end design and we’ll do the certification tests.”

“There is air-conditioning in a helicopter; but should we start designing it? There are half a dozen companies in the world that do air-conditioning, heating, cooling.”

HAL is oozing confidence, coming off two successful designs: the Dhruv ALH which has started selling abroad; and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), the design for which has just been completed. And they now have a clear concept of the LOH to work upon: a 3-ton helicopter, powered by a single Shakti engine (as compared to the dual-engine Dhruv).

HAL says that, with the LCH design complete, it’s in-house design centre, called the Rotary Wing R&D Centre (RWRDC), is going full steam ahead on the LOH design. A senior designer explains, “Designers work at peak activity until the prototype is designed; then they are free for the next project. So with the LCH prototype ready, the RWRDC is going ahead full steam on the LOH. The design, we estimate, will be ready in a year.”

(Tomorrow: Part II: Soon to fly: India’s Light Combat Helicopter)

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say but looks like the WSI helicopter is being taken apart by a bunch of garage mechanics. Poor organization of the process. Panels are all over the place, one does not see storage racks for parts, etc, stc. This really presents a very poor image. HAL needs to work on presenting a professional image to the world at large.

Anonymous said...

Now in hot weather trials in Siachen, another Dhruv will test-land in Sonam, powered by the new Shakti engine, which has been especially designed for India’s extreme altitudes by French company, Turbomeca.
_____________________________________
Bad typo,

"hot weather trials in Siachen" ?
please correct it. Perhaps you meant "hot and high" performance trials ?

Broadsword said...

No, that's not a typo. Hot weather trials take place in summer in several places. In Rajasthan, in the north-east, and in Siachen as well.

The hot weather in Siachen is a lot hotter than the cold weather there. Visit sometime.

fighterclass said...

thanks ajai. didn't know that. what is avg summer temperature at that place in daytime ?
of course I would visit, if I'm allowed there ! :-D

Anonymous said...

"powered by the new Shakti engine, which has been especially designed for India’s extreme altitudes by French company, Turbomeca"

Is the Shakti a joint venture b/w HAL and Turbomeca or license production by HAL

Vishal Nalkur said...

Wow! Cant wait for your next post Ajai...

Anonymous said...

ardiden/shakti is a jv.

Anonymous said...

ajai, whats that turbomeca generator in the 1st picture for? n i don't agree with ajai to buy cockpits / air cons off the shelf from foreign suppliers because at critical times, they are bound to sever coorperation. I fully support outsourcing those components however from local companies.

Anonymous said...

and the weapon bar (i mean the place where the missiles etc are to be located) looks really shoddy. looks like a pvc pipe.

Anonymous said...

rather than inducting "weaponised dhruv" army should just wait for LCH. dhruv is a very modern multi-role looking helo, but looks crap as an attack craft. I doubt it will even fit the role well

Anonymous said...

2015 / 2017 is toooo long for a LOH. all they need is a scaled down dhruv with one engine, which should just take 2 years +/-, ie by 2011. along the lines of Eurocopter Fennec - 2 versions on same platform.

Anonymous said...

rather than inducting "weaponised dhruv" army should just wait for LCH. dhruv is a very modern multi-role looking helo, but looks crap as an attack craft. I doubt it will even fit the role well

how does it matter what it looks like, it can look like johnny lever for all I care.
WSI dhruc is NOT an attack helicopter. it is a normal medium transport helicopter with weapons ability, like the mi-17. swing-role, if you will. the difference is this can be used w/o much headache in the high altitudes, unlike most others in the same class.

Anonymous said...

"2015 / 2017 is toooo long for a LOH. all they need is a scaled down dhruv with one engine, which should just take 2 years +/-, ie by 2011. along the lines of Eurocopter Fennec - 2 versions on same platform."

AFAIK, the design of the LOH is going to be completed within a year from now. The 2015 deadline is for completing the delivery of all the contracted helicopters to the army.

Anonymous said...

"rather than inducting "weaponised dhruv" army should just wait for LCH. dhruv is a very modern multi-role looking helo, but looks crap as an attack craft. I doubt it will even fit the role well"

Can't you distinguish between a two-seater, single-engine dedicated attack helicopter and a 16-seater, double-engined weaponised troop transport helicopter?

Anonymous said...

LCH is not single engined.

Harpreet said...

This is the machine pictured here: http://www.hal-india.com/images/dhruv-w1.jpg

Anonymous said...

first anon, you dont see racks etc near the chopper because one stage is done, it is WIP and another set of assembly is to be done, whereupon wheeled racks will be brought in for assembly of the rest. The current chopper just has its composite panels removed for quick access to the avionics LRUs within.

No need to make a big hue and cry about image. It counts sure, but performance counts far more, and HAL is delivering on that front.

Shiv Aroor said...

superb stuff ajai! can't wait for part 2 and 3!

Anonymous said...

drool shiv, you would never be able to write such stuff.

Anonymous said...

yes, but shiv is #1 in copying stuff from others' blog n posting it on LIVEFIST. everytime "according to Prasun Sengupta from Tempur, Malaysia"...

Anonymous said...

I only hope this 'ALH with lipstick' doesnt take the HAL's focus off the LCH...like in the case of Kaveri...set out to make an engine for a 4.5 Gen a/c and ended up making a marine engine! What a shame!

Anonymous said...

HAL chairman Mr. Ashok Baweja will superannuate next year Feb and a personnel and Admin guy is waiting to become the next chairman of a high tech company like HAL. do you think a HR guy without a technical back ground will lead HAL with all these project waiting to be completed and delivered? A HR guy manning HAL, will be the dooms day for indian aviation industry.! I quote supreme court " only GOD can save this country".

Anonymous said...

Great pic Mr. Ajai Shukla. We want somebody like you to keep sending us those news that difinitely make us pride for nation.

Keep it up

Sid said...

if i am not wrong these pictures are really old.

wasn't this was the same blue chopper which was gifted to nation on independence day or something.

pic : - http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/images/AIR_ALH_Dhruv_Shakti_Engines_Armed_lg.jpg

Ajai said...

The Shakti is essentially a licensed production engine. Made in France; manufactured in Bangalore.

For face-saving, HAL claims to have developed 15% of the engine, but that probably includes the packing material. All the important stuff --- like the combustion chamber, which is the heart of the engine --- has been done by Turbomeca. That's not surprising... helicopter engines incorporate the most cutting edge technologies!

That packing case is not a "Turbomeca generator". It's the Shakti engine which was being fitted on the ALH.

And finally... a WSI helicopter and an attack helicopter are not interchangeable. They perform very different roles. The WSI is not being developed at the cost of delaying the LCH. As you will read in tomorrow's article, the WSI is the test bed for the LCH's weapons and sensors.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. My only concern is how long (years) is it going to take HAL to produce these 76 choppers?

Anonymous said...

Ajai,

Are they waiting for shakti engine for WSI ? That will allow IA to have something with power and enough weapons in kargil like situations.

How much payload does it 2b2 carry to siachen ?

Anonymous said...

Ajai, I was the one who called that box a Turbomeca Generator because I thought shakti looks like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Turbomeca_Ardiden_P1220827.jpg

Anyway, to clarify, should all LOHs be SUPPLIED to the armed forces by 2017 or should development have completed by that time? When is the prototype expected to fly?

Anonymous said...

"I only hope this 'ALH with lipstick' doesnt take the HAL's focus off the LCH...like in the case of Kaveri...set out to make an engine for a 4.5 Gen a/c and ended up making a marine engine! What a shame!"

Well you will never be satisfied. If HAL improves on a proven concept, you call it "lipstick", if DRDO is unable to prove a concept, you are ashamed. Tell me what will satisfy you, or is there anything that you can personally do to change either situation.

People who whine and crib, always find something to crib about. We dont have the budget or economic might as US, Russia and China to start from scratch every time. Have some PRIDE, for god sake..

Sparsh said...

Col. Shukla,

Does the WSI Dhruv have a rear ramp for entry/exit and slithering while hovering?

Kartik said...

to the guy who posted anonymously, about panels lying about, he/she obviously has'nt ever been inside of an aircraft factory. At Boeing's Everett factory, there are panels lying on the floor, not on racks, and people are instructed not to meddle with them. just because panels are lying near the helicopter and not on racks, doesn't mean anything. someone was right- if people want to crib, they'll find the most ridiculous things to crib about.

cybersurg said...

Thanks for the great pics.

In fact I was expecting to see HAL's dedicated combat helicopter - of which there was a model at Aero India 2007.

But this appears to be the "armed ALH" which was there in model form in 2005, if I am not mistaken.

I guess this will have Attack capability + troop transport capability.

shiv

Anonymous said...

HAL
=====
Helicopters

1. ALH 42 'Dhruvs' -----------> 159

2. ALH 42 'Gunships'--------> 76 ( Army 60, Airforce 16)

3. New LUH/LOH --------> 187 ( Army, Airforce)

4. New Medium weight helicopter in the Mi-17 class--------> 350 * approx. ( Not decided on partner) yet to be approved.


Imports
=============

5. Naval Maritime ->upto 60 ( intial req. 16 with an additional FO order of 44) Fronterunners Agusta NH 90, Sikorsky S -70B.& EC 725 Cougar

6. Airforce heavy Lift -------> 15 ( Contenders like Boeing CH-47'Chinook')

7. LOH/LUH ----------> 197 f.c. Eurocopter AS 550C3 ' Fennac'
8. Medium Mi-17's --------> 80 from Russia.
9. Gunships--------> 24 ( to replace the Mi-35's) six contenders in fray.
10. VVIP travel -------> 12 . Agusta Westland EH 101 won.
====================================================
Note:- ( 3 +7) Total 384 LOH/LUH's inc ( Army 259, Airforce 125)

Anonymous said...

@all

for your kind info, the pictures r not of the ALH WSI... it is actually the airforce version of dhruv.....the WSI version is for the army and is distinguishable by its camo colours, skid landing gears,and absence of chin-mounted turret or the IR head.