Friday, 4 February 2011

HAL plans treat for Aero India

The second prototype of the Light Combat Helicopter nearing completion at HAL, Bangalore. Integrated with weapons and sensors, it is 200 kg lighter than the first prototype, which first flew last May

By Ajai Shukla
HAL, Bangalore

Showcasing the success of its burgeoning helicopter business, aerospace giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), will treat spectators at next week’s Aero India 2011 air show in Bangalore to a daring display of helicopter aerobatics by its newly built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). HAL honchos promise that the LCH will fly manoeuvres that will eclipse the Indian Air Force’s globally acclaimed Sarang aerobatics team, which flies the Dhruv helicopter.

This is rare confidence in a helicopter that came onto the drawing board just three years ago; currently, there is only a single flying prototype of the LCH, which has flown 60 hours since it took to the air last May. The second prototype of the LCH is scheduled to make its first flight live at Aero India 2011. Eventually, India’s military plans to buy 65 of these heavily armed and armoured attack helicopters.

Alongside the LCH, the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) is also set to make a splash at the air show. Five Dhruvs will be handed over to the Indian Army as the first tranche of an order of 105 helicopters. In addition, the IAF has ordered 54 Dhruvs, which HAL supplies at a competitive price of about Rs 44 crores each.

All this is part of HAL’s growing focus on helicopters. “Our helicopter business is currently just 5-10% of our total turnover (HAL turnover: Rs 11,457 crores in 2009-10)”, says P Soundara Rajan, the chief of HAL’s Helicopter Complex. “By 2022, a range of home-grown helicopters will account for 25% of HAL’s revenues.”

The foundation of this growing helicopter business is the Dhruv ALH, in which HAL developed the basic rotary wing technologies that are now being adapted into successor products that include the Weaponised Dhruv, the LCH, the Light Utility Helicopter (LuH), and the prospective Indian Multi-Role Helicopter.

Besides a gigantic Rs 7000 crore order of 159 Dhruvs from the Indian military, that helicopter is drawing attention from overseas. Ecuador, which bought 7 Dhruvs in an internationally tendered competition, is so pleased with the product that it is exploring the purchase of more. On a visit to the Dhruv assembly hangar, Business Standard witnessed the finishing touches being given to a Dhruv for the Ecuador Air Force, which is buying a replacement for one of the Dhruvs that was crashed due to pilot error. The nose of the Dhruv was being painted with a cobra head and --- as requested by Ecuador’s air force --- the word “cobra” was painted above it in Devanagari script.

“We are ramping up the production of Dhruvs to cater for the growing demand from the military, the paramilitary forces, and state governments. There is also overseas interest from the Indonesian and Malaysian armed forces”, reveals Ashok Nayak, HAL’s Chairman and Managing Director. “But our main focus is India’s military. This year, we will give them 25 Dhruvs; and, from next year onwards, we will hand over 36 Dhruvs each year. Orders from other customers will be delivered over and above this basic production.”

Besides the technologies developed for the Dhruv, the key to HAL’s helicopter plans is the Shakti engine, which was jointly developed by French engine-maker Turbomeca, in partnership with HAL (Turbomeca 83%, HAL 17%). Especially designed for the 20,000 foot altitudes that characterise large sections of the Indian borders with Pakistan and China, a configuration of twin Shakti engines powering a 5.5 tonne helicopter (as the Dhruv and the LCH are) has proven to be a world-beating combination.

Designed to allow two pilots to hover above a helipad at 20,000 feet, carrying 200 kilogrammes of payload, a Dhruv helicopter powered by the Shakti engine exceeded that requirement handily during tests last summer. At the Indian Army’s 21,000 foot high Sonam Post, astride the Siachen Glacier, the test helicopter hovered with a payload of 600 kilogrammes.

Already an economical helicopter producer, HAL plans to cut costs by using common Indian-built parts across its planned range of helicopters. Besides the Shakti engine, HAL plans to use common communication and navigation equipment, and common cockpit equipment like pilots’ seats and avionics.

“Having entirely indigenised the Dhruv’s design, our next focus will be on developing component systems within the country”, says Soundara Rajan. “Today the glass cockpit, the auto pilot and the vibration monitoring system all come from abroad. Now we will cut down costs by increasing the level of indigenisation in our helicopters.”


Anonymous said...

Great article! It's great for any new blogger such as myself.

Anonymous said...

The pilots flying the LCH will be experienced veterans and excellent pilots.But i do hope that the bosses of HAL do not ask for too much.Anywhere,especially in India,GOD FORBID,any untoward incident is a disaster for the running project.Rather than bother about reactions of others,HAL must concentrate solely on testing as per strict procedure and tolerances of the LCD demonstrator.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info sir. If you visit Aero India 2011 pls take some HD videos of LCH for lurkers like me, who will miss it. :-(

Sir, any info about Aura UCAV?

Anurag said...

Awesome article.....36 choppers in a year should be good rate if they are talking about Dhruv only.In future they would be producing LCH,LUH,Multirole chopper(later) along with ALH,obviously they will have to produce around 80-100 choppers a year.

Shailendra said...

Good to know this :)
I hope INDIA will have a geat future in helicopters. But tell me one thing ?
Do we have enough Engineers in INDIA to design and develop helicopters ? Specially Engines ? I think now time for India to have IITs and Engineering colleges specifically for engines of all kind

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

It seems Dr Baweja, when handing over to Ashok Nayak, either forgot to brief him properly, or Nayak suffers from selective amnesia. A couple of examples here will suffice. Firstly, it was way back in July 2005 that HAL had publicly stated that it will shortly obtain EASA airworthiness certification for the Dhruv ALH. Well, the whole world is still awaiting this elusive EASA certification. Secondly, Nayak should bear in mind that the requirement in Malaysia existed three years ago and that too, not for the Malaysian Armed Forces, but for the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and the Fire & rescue Services Dept (BOMBA). Three years ago, both these agencies selected the AgustaWestland AW-139 over the Dhruv ALH and last year these were delivered.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

"Eventually, India’s military plans to buy 65 of these heavily armed and armoured attack helicopters."
What does BROADSWORD mean by the term 'India's military'? Does it include both the IAF and Indian Army's Aviation Corps? Or is it just the IAF? And how does one qualify the term 'heavily armed'? Isn't it a contradiction in terms, especially when the IAF wants 22 attack helicopters like the AH-64D and Mi-28NE? How can a heavily armed helicopter become a light combat helicopter, the operative term here being 'light'?

manjunath said...

Thank u sir i was waiting for this news.... its very nice c there is more indigenous components in our LCH , & we expect more from u HAL & DRDO ( As a common Citizen of India )

manjunath said...

This is little off topic , but I request u to post the photos of IAF Garuds & their new uniform

thank you ,

DEVASIS said...

A very balanced report.
The DHRUV is a real success but it is a western helicopter when you tote up the cost of the imported items namely the two engines,the cockpit instrumentation,displays,
hydraulic actuators and so on. Even the composite shell and fuselage are made from imported raw materials including metal alloys.
The input from India is machining and assembly.
We need to move on to further projects and not rest our oars only on the DHRUV.

DEVASIS said...

A very balanced report.
The DHRUV is a real success but it is a western helicopter when you tote up the cost of the imported items namely the two engines,the cockpit instrumentation,displays,
hydraulic actuators and so on. Even the composite shell and fuselage are made from imported raw materials including metal alloys.
The input from India is machining and assembly.
We need to move on to further projects and not rest our oars only on the DHRUV.

Shailendra said...

Hello Ajay,
One thing to note here, that this TD will be 200 KG lighter than the last one. Can you please explain it more ?
If that is true, its a great achievement by HAL.

Robin said...

Nice..... but frankly, more excited about seeing the Flying Bulls perform in this years' Aero India

Anonymous said...

Nice article,GO LCH, finally something tangible to yak about.

Thought I'd chance it here but can anyone let me know the advantage of a self propelled howitzer or towed artillery over a tank. I thought a tank would be more advantageous being highly mobile and capable of firing different types of munitions, so why the need for artillery then?. Is it just because of the weight differnce or is it a matter of cost of training/production too.

joydeep ghosh said...

ajai sir

any news on the supposed deal to sell Dhruv to Bolivia, Chile.


Anonymous said...

finally some good news.thats the way top go!!!

Broadsword said...

Prasun Sengupta:

Your question: "What does BROADSWORD mean by the term 'India's military'? Does it include both the IAF and Indian Army's Aviation Corps? Or is it just the IAF?"

Can it really be that you don't know what a "military" means?

Your question: "And how does one qualify the term 'heavily armed'?.... How can a heavily armed helicopter become a light combat helicopter, the operative term here being 'light'?

Actually, the operative term is "combat". A Gripen is a comparatively light aircraft, but it is still heavily armed. That is also true of the LCH. There lies the design challenge.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

My dear Ajai, it is not about me knowing or not knowing what the term 'military' means or implies, but for you to clearly give the breakdown of confirmed LCH orders either from a customer, or more than one customer. Therefore, what's the breakdown of the LCH orders coming from the Army and IAF going to be? Or is the IAF the sole customer to date? In that case you should have just mentioned IAF instead of 'military', shouldn't you? Better to stick to specifics rather than engage in generalities, don't you think?
Regarding the JAS-39 Gripen, yes it is indeed lighter than the Su-30MKI or F/A-18E/F, and is indeed more heavily armed than the F-5E/F that it was originally meant to replace in the global export market. But then, using your logic, can one therefore label the Gripen as a M-MRCA when even the Rafale, EF-2000 and F/A-18E/F are being labelled as M-MRCAs? The same goes for the LCH as well. If the operative term is 'combat' (i.e. air combat) instead of attack (i.e. anti-armour) then you're talking about comparing it with other existing attack helicopters that carry much heavier weapons payloads. In that case, being armed with four Mistral ATAMs and four HELINAs definitely does not make the LCH heavily armed. At most, it qualifies as an armed observation helicopter like the JGSDF's OH-1.

Broadsword said...


Your comment that it is for me "to clearly give the breakdown of confirmed LCH orders either from a customer, or more than one customer"

Do you, by any chance, believe that I am an MoD or HAL employee? I write for the Business Standard, which is read by a certain audience, and I alone decide the level of detail that goes into my stories.

While you hawk defence products and are, therefore, keen to know business-related details about buyers and sellers, the policy-makers that I write for are --- and I am the final judge of this --- quite content to know that the military is the buyer.

So please don't try and teach me what to write. Whether I put the buyer down as "the military", or "the IAF", or "the attack helicopter squadrons of the IAF", or the numbers and nicknames of the squadrons that buy the LCH, is something that is driven not by your needs but by the needs of my Business Standard readers.

If that is not enough detail for you, I guess I'll have to sadly bid you good-bye from this blog. It'll be hard for me, but I'll live with it.

P.S. If you think that the difference between an attack helicopter and an armed recce helicopter is only the level of munitions that they carry, it might indeed be better for you to move on from this blog!

Anonymous said...

what about the problem with the gearbox on the ALH?? Did not hear any positive news on that front. Have the feeling that the the LCH will use the same gearbox

Anonymous said...

And if he leaves the blog, it would be good riddance. The blog can do without confirmed plagiarizers like him.

Agnivesh said...

remember you had claimed that Tejas Mk.1 would have an AESA radar? The video released by ADA shows that it's not the case...what went so wrong with your bhavishya vani??

Anonymous said...

Hi prasun,

Why dont you restart your blog to give more/specific details ??

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Agnivesh: That 'bhavishya vani' wasn't made by me, but by the HINDU and FRONTLINE in which they quoted IAF officials as making that 'bhavishya vani'. You must also remember that at that time there was no talk of the Tejas Mk1 or Mk2, just Tejas LCA. Only when the Tejas Mk2's plans were made official that the goalposts were moved by ADA and now ADA claims, and the IAF insists, that the Tejas Mk2 ought to be equipped with an AESA-based MMR.

To Anon@23:26: I got something better: do read the Show Dailies due to come out during Aero India 2011 and you will find a lot more specifics about both the LCH and Tejas Mk2, if not in this blog!

Arun Urs said...

So unfortunate Prasun had to take down the level of discussion yet again. He has done so before on his own blog, by peddling all sorts of incorrect claims copy pasted from brochures & defence magazines, which he then trumpeted as exclusives. Also, add the fact that he is insufferably obnoxious when his mistakes are pointed out & will never gracefully cede to the facts. Whether it be his claims that the LCA has Elta 2052 (it doesnt), or that the Su-30 MKIs are only assembled in India (they are actually being manufactured from raw materials in Phases 3&4) or that key local programs are imports (too many such airy claims to count), his mistakes are legion, but his bravado in refusing to admit to his mistakes is equally legendary. I for one, hope Ajai continues with his well researched articles & doesnt have to "justify" his comments to bully boy tactics from Prasun & other ill informed amateurs.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sengupta pls stop posting here if you can't reply properly to Col Shukla. What happened to your own blog and all those fantasy stories?

Ajai sir, any video of LCH? Pls.....

Rituraj said...

Do you thing this will be ready for aero india?

fighterclass said...

prasun, why don't you go away and do what you do best, steal someone else's articles ?

Anonymous said...

ajai, stop being so damn petulant. prasun politely inquired why you weren't being more specific. a simple assertion that this level of detail was enough for your readers would have sufficed. you sound like a teenager asking him to stay off the blog. most unbecoming of someone like you. frankly disappointed.

Invalid said...

Prasun was right. Readers of articles have a right to know who you mean by Indian military. Only business men read your newspaper which is mostly dealing with India & international business. And most of them won't even read your articles in defence. I do read your articles in Business Standard. I have wondered why the information provided is not specific in newspapers. Well, if you write editorials / opinions, it is a different matter. But if you write a news article, then it has to be specific and neutral. Most of the journos in India try to feed their thoughts & opinions in their news segment. Hence the difference between news & opinion is very less in Indian newspapers. You know, I always think "why can't Ajai write for newspapers/ weeklies that are into strategic affairs or at least without any links to one particular area (like business), where you will have more audience. Anyway, that is my thought but it depends on the workload you have as you are in two different companies (NDTV & Business Standard).

While you have your right to ask for proper information (without journo's editing), you crossed limits in the manner you asked for it. If you like to inform readers in a better way, why can't revive your blog which is lying idle for an year. If you say that it is not your job, then please shutup and speak in a polite way in other's blog.

Anonymous said...

Invalid, its not that Prasun asked for the information, but that he behaved in his typical boorish, bullying style. That may work with amateurs, but not fellow journalists, especially those who have worn the uniform & are not going to bow down to such cheap tactics. Yeah, Ajai can be headstrong but he does take efforts to reply and does not cook up stories like Prasun does. Of all the so called defence journalists blogging, only 2 stand out, ajai and anantha krishanan. they are opinionated but not dishonest.

Guru said...

While i do not agree with the way Prasun presented his counter-arguements/clarifications, since this is Ajai's blog and he being a journalist, he has certain guidelines to abide by-i do feel certain valid open questions remain after one reads the article.

One-A point which has probably been the biggest criticism of the ALH: What are the indigenous components of the ALH? If Ajai has read the CAG report on the ALH, it was pretty damning. The report stated that close to 90% of the ALH was imported. Has this changed? A few words on this would definitely been expected in such a detailed article which was the result of a site visit.

Secondly around the Transmission problems (metal shreds being found in the transmission fluid)which is being looked into by an Italian engineering consultancy firm. Any update would have been most useful.

Last but not the least-the certification issue, which has been hanging for quite a few years.

All the same, to repeat, this is Ajai's blog and he is at complete freedom to write based on his responsibilities/requirements. Readers can make suggestions, which is what i am making. If this sounds reasonable, good.

But given the fact that we have got very balanced, all-round reporting from Ajai in the past (Prasun definitely does not fall in this league)i feel we will get a heads-up on this issues shortly.

Finally-extremely informative article on the ALH, Ajai. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4 February 2011 15:36
SP/towed artillery and Tanks are very different.
Tanks are mainly offensive weapons and usually spearhead an assault.Tank Guns,usually up-to 125 mm fire high velocity ammunition at flat trajectories and rely on line of sight to acquire/destroy their target and usually have effective ranges to about 2500-4500 meters depending on the Gun/ammunition used.Artillery is designed for sustained and high angle fire beyond line of sight.Unlike tanks,they can fire at high angles and obstacles.They fire at lower velocities but at longer ranges. They also are heavier caliber going up to 155 mm and in some cases beyond it.Tube Artillery can have ranges upto 40 kms.Both are very different and each of them essential.Lack of self -propelled artillery is currently one of our greatest concerns.

Mr. Ra said...

Kudos to HAL, Dhruv and Col.