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
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
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.
Cheetal, which is an upgraded Cheetah (Alouette)
helicopter with a newer Turbomeca TM 333-2B2 engine,
will be on its way out in the coming years when
it is replaced by the ALH versions, including
a brand new Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).
Nonetheless, despite its limitations, four IAF
pilots, Wg Cdr S Srinivasan, Wg Cdr D C Tiwari,
Flt Lt A Agrawal and Flt Lt A K Bharmoria, achieved
the daring feat to rescue a seriously ill American
mountaineer, who was part of an Indo-US expedition
in the East Karakoram range of Ladakh region in
India Aug 26.
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.
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.
It may be recalled that when Pakistan intruded
into India leading to the 1999 Kargil War, the
Indian Army or IAF did not have high altitude
helicopters. And as there are no Himalayan battle
grounds in the world, the big international companies
have not developed them yet.
Alouette, acquired in the 1960s, underwent periodic
changes and innovations in the perspective of
“Necessity is the Mother of Inventions” and the
brave pilots of the Indian Air Force, Army and
Navy have flown this helicopter despite its limitations.
HAL’ s Managing Director of the Helicopter Division,
Mr Soundra Rajan, and General Manager, Dr Prasad
Sampath, told India Strategic that
the Dhruv “is now a mature platform” and that
it has “far exceeded” the IAF and Army Qualitative
Staff Requirements (QSRs) in terms of weight,
range and heights. Improvements are still on.
Understandably, many systems on board the ALH
are sourced from different countries, particularly
France, but HAL deserves a big credit for integrating
them on one platform. Both the Rudra and LCH have
a glass cockpit, a 2nd generation advanced vibration
control and monitoring system, as well as the
significant Hover Control for critical moments.
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
Pillai, whom we met on a beautiful afternoon,
was excited about the ALH and LCH, as well as
the coming LUH. “It’s fun,” he said with a boy’s
grin and smile, “to test these beautiful machines.”
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.
of the helicopter numbers, and the capabilities
of their missiles, were not shared but Mr Nayak
said that the Indian Armed Forces would have a
big requirement in the coming years, and that
HAL was strengthening itself to step up the production
At the recent Army Aviations: Looking Forward
seminar for instance, it was pointed out that
Pakistan has twice the number of helicopters than
India although our requirement is much larger
due to the size and varying topography of the
HAL is also supplying the ALH to India’s paramilitary
forces, including the Border Security Force (BSF),
state governments and some civil organizations.
There are a few exports also.