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All you need to know about India’s new light helicopter LUH


The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), made by India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) for the Indian Army, received the initial operational clearance (IOC) from the military aviation regulator Camila on Friday.

“The army variant of the LUH received the IOC from Camila in the presence of defence minister Rajnath Singh on the 13th addition of aero India 2021 Expo at the Yelahanka airbase.

LuH light multirole helicopter was developed in India as part of a large-scale program to create its own technologies and reduce dependence on the supply of imported equipment. The machine was created from scratch by HAL Corporation. Its design uses some finished nodes and units,

LUH has a maximum take-off weight of 3.2 tons. The helicopter is equipped with a single Shakti engine, produced under the license of the French company Safran. This power plant can develop a shaft capacity of up to 750 kilowatts. The flight range of the new Indian helicopter is 350 kilometers. LUH can carry up to six passengers at a speed of 220 kilometers per hour.

The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), the latest rotor platform to fly out of the hangars of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), has hit the headlines with its stunning performance during the recent trials at Himalayas.

The need for LUH was felt after the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force sought a platform in the three-tonne class to carry out missions at the high altitudes of Himalayan and Glacier regions, given their strategic importance.
Indian army Cheetah Light helicopter
Indian army Cheetah Light helicopter
Currently, the ageing fleets of Cheetahs and Chetak helicopters operate at these high altitudes facing several limitations and obsolescence issues.
Indian army Chetak light helicopter
Indian army Chetak light helicopter

“The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) too can operate at high altitudes but may not be from bases with smaller helipads. This necessitated the IAF and the Indian Army to jointly issue the Staff Requirements for LUH with the state-of-the-art technologies to perform at high altitudes with considerable payloads,” said an official, who spoke to Onmanorama.

A total of 384 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopters (RSH) were projected by the Services in which 197 were in ‘Buy’ category and 187 in the ‘Make’ category.
The LUH is a design and development project, sanctioned by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 2009. It is undertaken by HAL as a fully indigenous development project.
Powered by a single turbo shaft engine Ardiden-1, the LUH is designed for roles such as reconnaissance, surveillance, troop transportation, aerial photography and casualty evacuation.
The maiden flight of the first prototype (PT-1) was carried out on September 6, 2016; the second prototype (PT-2) flew on May 22, 2017 and the third one (PT-3) took to the skies on December 14, 2018.

LUH Trials Completed

All certification activities like ground testing, ground test vehicle endurance runs, system testing, hot weather trials, cold weather trials, sea level trials and hot weather high altitude trials have been completed.
HAL LUH during high altitude trials
HAL LUH during high altitude trails
“Further, the user evaluation of hot and high altitude trials was carried out and the helicopter demonstrated its payload capability in Siachen glacier during August and September this year,” the official said.
Presently, three prototypes have completed about 600 hours of flight testing since 2016.
“In addition to meeting the requirements of armed forces, the LUH is designed to provide excellent performance at high altitude operations and with growth potential to accommodate additional equipment in future based on emerging needs. These features make LUH stand out in comparison to other contemporary helicopters in its class,” he added.
HAL LUH during Hot weather trial
HAL LUH during Hot weather trial
“Series production of LUH is being proposed to launch shortly. As a part of concurrent planning, we have acquired 610 acres of land at Tumkur for establishing a dedicated manufacturing facility for LUH. We plan to produce minimum 30 to 40 helicopters per year at the beginning stage itself which can be improved further,” said the official.

LUH Desi Systems

Critical systems like, rotor and transmission are indigenously designed and development by the Rotary Wing Research & Design Centre of HAL.
“Further, other divisions of HAL have developed avionics and electrical systems for LUH. From the beginning, we have partnered with many MSMEs and private industries in realization of machining components, cockpit display system and several stand-by instruments,” he said.
Some of the private industries that participated in the LUH program include: Data Patterns, Datasol, Southern Electronics, Prudent Communications and Shanti Gears.
“With this, we have achieved maximum content of indigenization about in 65 per cent in the LUH program. With the IP rights of the helicopter owned by HAL, any future adaptations can be undertaken within India to match with emerging operational requirements of our armed forces,” the official said.
HAL LUH Glass cockpit
HAL LUH Glass cockpit

Several new concepts like two segment main rotor blade, Smart Cockpit Display System, Health & Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) and Passive Vibration Isolation System (PVIS) have been incorporated in the helicopter.

Key Features of LUH
• Predominantly composite airframe with excellent crashworthy features.
• Main and tail rotor blades made out of composite material for damage tolerance capability. The hinge-less rotor system ensures high agility and manoeuvrability of the helicopter.
• Spacious cabin ensuring enough room for troop transport up to six troops or two stretchers with a medical attendant or large volume internal cargo.
• The gen-next avionics suite with fully integrated Multi-Functional Displays and indigenously developed application software.
• Modern engine with high indigenous content, manufacturing and repair and overhaul (RoH) rights with HAL.
• Several dual redundant systems ensuring higher levels of safety.
• Single engine with dual channel automatic fuel control (FADEC) with additional backup control.
• Night flying capability and crashworthy features.
“We have integrated state-of-the art technologies and systems in LUH. It can cater to the emerging needs in this class of helicopter for the next three to four decades. Design concepts adopted in the LUH make it a versatile platform,” the official added.

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