Kya HAL hai, Dhruv?

For all the large resources that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) pours into its global publicity drive, the sarkari mentality is a tenacious stain that no amount of commercial emancipation will rid it of. A report in today's Express confirmed what LiveFist first reported in October last year -- that the ALH Dhruv Naval variant is in deep trouble for specialised roles with the Navy. The company has denied this for almost a year now -- it took Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta to come out and put it in stone.

Anyway, that apart, this is seriously bad news for HAL. Rumour has it that chairman Ashok Baweja has held multiple meetings with the Navy to try and convince them to fulfil at least an interim order until vibration hassles are ironed out in the next tranche, but the Navy has put its foot down. "There is no way in hell we can conduct even half-decent anti-submarine ops with a chopper that shakes at 40-100 feet like the the Dhruv," an officer who's flown the ALH Naval variant told me last year when I first posted the story.

It's been a tough couple of years for the Dhruv. The Chileans bailed like a bunch of ninnies despite a sincere and robust effort by HAL and South Block to get them to change their minds. The Dhruv sold to the Jharkhand government won't get any free TV publicity because nobody's around to fly the damn thing -- this is the same one that crashed in Andhra in 2005, remember.

On another note entirely, American firm Northrop-Grumman is hoping to make some headway with its Fire Scout rotor-wing UAV for ships at Def Expo. It might even sign some sort of cooperation deal with HAL -- the latter, if you remember, has been asked to develop a ship-borne rotor UAV for surveillance and tactical command and control.

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