Indian Army likely to phase out Cheetah, Chetak helicopters from 2027

The Indian Army is looking at phasing out its ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in three to four years (2027-28), with the entire fleet to be phased out by 2033-34.

Further, it is also considering induction of the Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs) as the replacement besides exploring the option of leasing.

Notably, the Army Aviation Corps is currently operating around 190 Chetak helicopters, Cheetah and Cheetal helicopters.

While the Army will be getting around 100 light utility helicopters (LUH) from DPSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), it is also looking at the option of taking choppers on lease as a stopgap to meet critical requirements.

The Indian Army requires around 250 light helicopters for the reconnaissance and surveillance activities.

Understandably, the Indian Army will start phasing out its Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in three to four years, with the entire fleet set to be replaced with new helicopters over the next 10 to 12 years as the Army Aviation Corps seeks to modernise its capabilities with new light utility helicopters, attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The design of the single-engine Cheetah and Chetak helicopters is almost six decades old, and their airworthiness has been questioned after a string of mishaps in recent years.

In March, two army pilots were killed in a Cheetah crash in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh. The accident turned the spotlight on the troubling safety record of the ageing helicopters and the pressing need to replace them with newer ones as quickly as possible.

Around 15 Cheetahs and Chetaks have crashed during the last 10 years, killing several pilots.

The existing fleet is airworthy and still has a technical life of a few years left.

To be noted that till date, HAL has licence-produced 625 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters for the three services.

As of now, HAL no longer manufactures them but is responsible for their maintenance and repair.

As for the LUHS, the Army has so far ordered six limited-series production LUHs from HAL.

Further, it is also on course to order more light combat helicopters (LCH), having raised and operationalised the first LCH squadron this year.

The army needs around 90 LCHs, also designed and developed by HAL.