The Army, which is facing a huge shortage of light utility helicopters with the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, will receive the first batch of six indigenous Light Utility helicopter (LUH) by the end of 2022, a defence source said. The LUH was designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
In a separate development, Lt. Gen. Ajay Kumar Suri took over as the Director General (DG) and Colonel Commandant of the Army Aviation on Monday.
“The acceptance in principle was received two months back. The Army will receive the first batch of six LUHs by December 2022,” the source stated. The LUH is meant to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters along with the Russian Ka-226T helicopters.
At Aero India in Bengaluru in February, the Army variant of the LUH received its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC).
The LUH is a 3-ton class helicopter with glass cockpit for reconnaissance and surveillance roles and as a light transport helicopter. It has been extensively test-flown at various geographic conditions, including high altitude.
Following the IOC, HAL has moved to the next phase of integrating and flight-testing of mission and role equipment on the LUH. There is a tentative order of 200 LUH from the Army and the Air Force.
Earlier HAL Chairman R Madhavan told ET that the letter of acceptance for 12 helicopters – six each for the army and air force – has been received and work has started to produce the aircraft. “The LoA has been received and we plan to deliver the first helicopter by next year. The production facility at Tumkur is ready and we will manufacture the choppers there,” he said.
The LUH order is a boost for the Make in India initiative, given that the chopper has been fully designed and developed in house by HAL, borrowing on the expertise gained by older platforms like the Advanced Light Helicopter.
While 12 helicopters are to be ordered in the first lot, the expected requirement of the LUH within the services is pegged at 185. In addition, India and Russia have also been negotiating a deal for the Kamov Ka 226 helicopters for the army and air force to fulfil the large needs of such type of aircraft.
The indigenous chopper has gone through rigorous trials and tests by the services, including at forward helipads on the border. These include test missions from Leh to both the China and Pakistan borders. It has also demonstrated a flawless flight from Bangalore to Leh, a distance of over 3000 km, in three days without any servicing issues.