Home India News Indigenous Dhruv helicopter flies with advanced engine

Indigenous Dhruv helicopter flies with advanced engine


Bangalore : The indigenously developed Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) achieved a major milestone Thursday when it was flown for the first time with a new and more powerful engine that has been jointly developed by Indian and French engineers.
The 1,000-horsepower Shakti engine has been co-developed by Dhruv manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Turbomeca of France and will enable the helicopter to operate at high altitudes and in adverse desert conditions. The engine has an indigenous content of 20 percent and this is likely to gradually rise to 80 percent.

“Shakti’s higher power will enable a whopping 150 percent increase in payload capability at high altitudes (of 5.5-6.5 km) and operation in harsh terrain,” HAL chairman Ashok Baweja pointed out.

Some 70 Dhruvs are currently flying and are powered by 800-horsepower Turbomeca engines.

Two helicopters, one a utility version with a glass cockpit and another armed with air-to-air missiles, rockets and turret guns were flown Thursday in the defence area of the HAL airport here.

Among the audience were officials from the certification authorities – India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation and France’s Cemelac.

The 30-minute demonstration, on a bright sunny day and under windy conditions, included a number of mid-air manoeuvres like forward and reverse flight, banking 360 degrees and soft-landing vertically.

The armed variant in blue for the Indian Air Force (IAF) was piloted by Wing Commander C.D. Upadhyaya and the utility variant in olive green for the Indian Army by Wing Commander Unni Pillai, both HAL test pilots.

“As the flight was meant for demonstrating the operational capability of the Shakti engine, we flew at low speeds and limited our manoeuvres,” Upadhyaya told IANS after landing.

“We will open the envelope as we undertake more such flights in the coming months and widen the helicopter’s scope in battlefield conditions,” he added.

Designed for multi-mission, multi-role operations, the armed version of Dhruv provides flexibility to meet the stringent requirements of the army and the air force.

The new glass cockpit will have the latest avionics and weapon systems. The four flat multi-functional colour displays on the dashboard will provide all the information the pilots will require during an operation.

Baweja said a modern electronic warfare suite comprising a radar warning receiver, a laser warning receiver and missile approach warning system would detect a missile even as it was launched towards the copter and trigger countermeasures to deceive and deflect it.

“The fast detection and assessment of the threat and quick response by the launch of decoys to deflect the missile will make the difference between survival and death,” he added.

The IAF variant will be equipped with “fire and forget” air-to-air missiles that can be launched in both the visual range and beyond visual range modes. The helicopter’s 20 mm turret gun can be linked either to an electro-optical system or the pilot’s helmet pointing system, Upadhyaya explained.

The military variant will also be integrated with “fire and forget” anti-tank guided missiles.

For operating in all-weather conditions during day or night, the new generation Dhruvs will be equipped with an electro-optical day/night observation and targeting system consisting of an infra red camera, close-circuit colour television camera, a laser range finder and a laser designator.

“The state-of-the-art integrated system will provide high performance visual imagery of terrain and targets even in total darkness and allows day and night operation with sensors. The ability to detect, identify and range the target will optimise its weapons’ utilisation,” Upadhyaya noted.

As part of certification process, the Shakti powered Dhruv will be test flown here and at sea level. It will also be flown at high altitude in the Himalayas and in the hot deserts of Rajasthan.