Paris: A light combat helicopter (LCH), being developed by Indian aerospace major, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF), is due to make its first flight in October 2008, according to its chairman, Ashok Baweja. Made mostly from lightweight composites, the LCH will be able to operate at very high altitudes.
Capable of operating at heights of up to 6,000 metres, or 18,000 feet, the LCH will be powered by the Shakti engine developed by HAL, in association with Turbomeca.
HAL eventually plans to supply 65 of these armed versions of the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) to the Indian Air Force, Baweja informed a press conference at the Paris Air Show.
Based on HAL's existing Dhruv advanced light helicopter platform, the LCH will be equipped with helmet-mounted targeting systems, electronic warfare systems and advanced weapons systems.
HAL has already won orders for the supply of 160 Dhruv's to the Indian Army and Air Force, including utility and armed variants, and is also in the race to supply six Dhruv's to Chile and another two to Bolivia. It is also making a pitch to supply the Dhruv to Turkey, where it recently exhibited the helicopter, Baweja said.
The company is in the process of obtaining airworthiness certification for the Dhruv in several countries, including Malaysia and Israel, as well as from the European Aviation Safety Agency. It also working with foreign partners, like Chile's ENAER, to set up maintenance and training facilities to support potential foreign sales, Baweja said.
With an order book of $10 billion, HAL has already completed upgrades of the Indian Air Force's Jaguar and MiG-27 combat jets as well as the navy's Sea Harriers and is now in talks for refurbishing the IAF's fleet of Mirage 2000H's.
Baweja also mentioned that the light combat aircraft (LCA) programme was on schedule, and certification of the aircraft was expected to be complete by 2010. The first eight to 10 LCA's would also be supplied to the IAF by then, he said.
Certification for the intermediate jet trainer (IJT) was also on, and the first squadron of the jets would be supplied to the IAF next year. HAL will eventually build 250 of the IJTs. The trainer will eventually be powered by the Saturn AL55I engine, which is now undergoing flight tests in Russia.
Baweja also said that HAL would assemble the additional 40 Sukhoi-30MKI combat jets ordered by India from Russia, taking the total number of these aircraft to be built by it under licence to 180.
Baweja said that all the Su-30s would be built by 2014.