Light Utility Helicopters (LUH)

Manufacturer: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
Designed and Developed: Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre (RWR&DC)
Project Launched: 2009
Quantity: 187
Status: In production
Primary Users: Indian Army and Indian Air Force

Brief: The Indian Army and Air Force have a total projected requirement of having 384 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH), of which, 197 helicopters are earmarked for global purchase and remaining 187 helicopters are under ‘Make category’ which are to be indigenously manufactured by HAL.

The LUH is a design and development project, sanctioned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2009. It is undertaken by HAL as a fully indigenous development project and is designed and developed by Rotary Wing Research and Design Center (RWR&DC), one of the R&D sections of HAL for civilian and military applications.

Powered by a single turbo shaft engine Ardiden 1U from Safran Helicopter Engine (France), 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.

After completing all certification activities like ground testing, ground test vehicle endurance runs, system testing and passing of a series of successful tests including flight tests in hot and cold conditions, as well as trials at various altitudes and temperatures, the MoD in 2020 placed an initial order of 12 Light Utility Helicopters out of which 6 are for Indian Army and another 6 for the Indian Air Force.

First LUH will be delivered by August 2022. These will eventually replace the Cheetah & Chetak helicopters which are being operated by Indian Armed forces.

Total 187 helicopters are planned out of which 126 LUH is planned for the Indian Army with the remaining 61 for the Indian Air Force. The Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the basic LUH for IAF and IA has been accorded by the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification.

Also, worth mentioning, HAL has formed a joint venture partnership, Indo Russian Helicopters Limited (IRHL) with Russian company Kamov and has offered the Russian light-twin Ka-226T for the light helicopter requirements of the Army and Air Force under the global tender for procurement of 197 LUH worth Rs 9700 Crores.

After previous RFIs getting scrapped, a fresh RFI was issued on 31 October 2014 in a ‘Buy-and-Make-India’ approach with a certain number of helicopters to be supplied by the selected OEM in flyaway condition, with the remaining numbers to be built by Indian partner at a production facility in India through licensed transfer of technology.

Indian private companies – Tata, Reliance, Mahindra are in fray with Mahindra forming a JV with Airbus and Tata’s with Bell.

At present, the RSH programme continues to be covered in uncertainty, with no clarity from the Government on its future, leaving the private industry in limbo.

Main Specifications: The LUH is 3-ton class helicopter with 4 Bladed Composite Main Rotor System, Main Rotor Blade Folding, 4 Bladed Tail Rotor System, Single Engine with dual channel automatic fuel control (FADEC) with additional backup control, Night Flying Capability, Glass Cockpit with Smart Cockpit Display Systems (SCDS), Skid Landing Gear, Fuselage to accommodate 2 pilots in side-by-side configuration and 6 passengers and Crash Worthy Crew Seats.

The Helicopter can be used for Reconnaissance & Surveillance, reconnaissance, Aerial Photography, Airborne Forward Air Controller, Casualty Evacuation and to provide assistance in emergency to civil authorities etc.

It will be capable of flying at 220 Kmph; service ceiling of 6.5 Km and a range of 350 Km with 500 kg payload.