Shakti-propelled Attack Dhruv takes flight!

HAL's press release today: The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv took a flight today for the first time with the more powerful Shakti engine and in weaponised role.The inaugural flights of Dhruv powered by Shakti engine and loaded with weapons took place at HAL's Helicopter Division in Bangalore this morning.

After the maiden flight, HAL Chairman Mr Ashok K. Baweja said that a simulator school will be set up by next September along with CAE, Canada with common modules of training, though primarily for ALH. The ALH has the utility and weaponised variants, and while conceptualizing the latter, there was a need for a more powerful engine for the additional payload of weapons, especially while operating at high altitude.

"The Shakti engine, developed jointly by Turbomeca (French) and HAL, develops almost 30 per cent more power compared to the TM 333-2B2 engine, with 19 per cent content of Indian development," Mr Baweja said.
The new engine is likely to get the certification by January next year, after carriage trials, butt firing and air firing besides various other trials. ``The weapons are being integrated on the variant. We are doing everything to make it (weaponised Dhruv) a lethal platform for the military services,'' he said, adding that the ALH would provide the right solution for the forces' strategy.

After introducing the ALH in 2002, phenomenal improvements have been made after incorporating feedback from the users – Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, who have operationalised the aircraft and flown it over the desert, sea and high mountains. ``The ALH today is different from when it was introduced in 2002,'' the Chairman added. Improvements include the glass cockpit, weapons and new engine.

"The current order book for the ALH is large and the number of helicopters required is clearly indicative of its excellent performance," Mr Baweja added. On the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), Mr Baweja said that the copter will be of tandem seating and capable of operating at very high altitudes. The LCH is likely to make its inaugural flight sometime in August next year. On the LCA Tejas project, Mr Baweja said that the LSP began in March and HAL was committed to deliver the aircraft on time.

The Hawk production would start shortly and the first batch of the Advanced Jet Trainers would be handed over to the customer early April 2008. "Existing infrastructure will be used for Hawk production after winding up Jaguar operations and the LCA manufacture too will pick up full steam. There will also be new hangars for the Hawks and LCA. The order book is firm and the Company is moving ahead with a clear vision for the next 5 to 10 years," the Chairman said.

New programmes like the heavy cargo lift and new generation fighter coming up, HAL too has changed its strategy of business, keeping in mind the multiplicity of tasks involved. Four divisions will be dedicated to helicopters. Replying to a query on Dhruv's export potential, Mr Baweja said that the primary focus would be to set up maintenance facilities and cater to the domestic market first, taking into account the huge requirements.