Bangalore. The armed version of India’s Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) touched 20,000 feet in a test flight early August while two Cheetals performed a daring rescue at 23,000 feet a few weeks later.
The ALH test flight was conducted by Army’s ace test pilot Brig Amardeep Sidhu in Leh while the two Cheetals were taken to this height by ace pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to rescue a stranded foreign mountaineer.
The armed version of the ALH, designated Rudra by the Army Aviation Corps which operates them, is still under various tests before its induction by end-2011. But so far, according to Chairman and Managing Ashok Nayak of HAL, which manufactures the helicopter at its Bangalore facility, all the required tests, undertaken step by step, have been successful.
Rudra has also cleared the airto- air and air-to-ground missile firing tests at the Interim Test Range at Balasore in Orissa and now, combined missile, rocket and gun firing tests, day and night, would be conducted later this year. Pilots also have Helmet mounted cueing systems to ensure precision attacks.
Notably, Rudra is powered by the new Shakti engine developed by HAL and the French Turbomeca, which should be a standard fitting in all versions of the ALH, including the high altitude attack helicopter now called LCH or Light Combat helicopter, Mr Nayak told India Strategic in an interview.
But Shakti is the engine of today, Mr Nayak said adding that Turbomeca had done all the required Transfer of Technology (ToT) for its manufacture by HAL. The utility version is however still on the drawing board but should not take long to develop as its various components would be the same as those successfully tested on ALH variants. Its engine is also under the selection process.
Mr Nayak said that Phase I of the Shakti engine’s TOT was over, and the remaining three phases would be completed in about two years and then the infrastructure to manufacture it fully in India would be established. Significantly, he pointed out, the critical engine core technology had already been transferred.
It may be noted that Rudra, or ALHWSI (Weapon Systems Integrated) is coming in two versions. The Mark III, which Brig Sidhu took to the new heights, has Electronic Warfare and Targeting Systems while the Mark IV would have a French Nexter 20 mm turret gun, Belgian 70 mm rockets, and MBDA air to air and air to ground missiles. All these systems have been tested individually.
Two prototypes of the LCH have done about 100 hours, flown by Group Captain Unni Pillai, a retired IAF test pilot, who is the Chief Test Pilot for HAL now.
Mr Nayak said that a 3rd prototype of the LCH is under development, and that it should be inducted by the IAF in about three to four years.ALH touches 20,000 feet and Cheetal 23,000