HAL Light Observation Helicopter(LOH)/Light utility Helicopter (LUH),Indian Armed forces
The HAL Light Utility Helicopter (LUH)and its derivative HAL Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) is a single-engine light helicopter under development by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited of India.The 3-tonne helicopter for the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force will replace the fleet of Cheetah and Chetak Helicopters.
The Project is in preliminary stages.The Indian Military have a requirement for 384 helicopters of which 187 helicopters will be built by HAL.The first flight is scheduled in 2013 with the production is planned to begin in 2015 at 10 per year,later on going up to 36 per year as seeing the demand and delivery of 187 HAL’s LUHs is to be completed by 2022.
Design and Development Phase of Hal Light Observation Helicopter(LOH)/Light utility Helicopter (LUH)
In July 2008, in a major drive to modernise the armed forces and expand its aviation wing, the Defence Ministry issue a request for proposal (RFP) to procure 197 helicopters. The armed forces would modernise their helicopter fleet by 2010 by replacing the age-old Cheetah and Chetak, which had been in service for last 40 years. It was expected that the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) would develop the remaining 115 helicopters. The proposed procurement is worth Rs. 3000 crore. HAL would undertake the maintenance of these helicopters on a transfer of technology (ToT) basis. It has assured that it would develop the same type of platforms in five to seven years and would fulfill the rest of the requirements. The trials would end by 2009 and the induction of 197 helicopters would take place by 2010.
Six foreign companies would bid for the helicopter deal. The companies were Bell (US), Eurocopter, Augusta Westland (Italy), Rosobornexport (Russia), MD Helicopters (US) and Sikorsky (US). The total number of helicopters may increase from 312 to 384 units due to a new requirement for a large number of heavy-lift helicopters.
By November 2011 there was a proposal for procurement of 187 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) under design and development project undertaken by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
European defence major Eurocopter wrote a letter to Army chief Gen VK Singh in February 2012 expressing “concern” over delays in finalising the deal for procuring 197 light helicopters for the defence forces. “We take this opportunity to express our concern regarding the time frame for the very important programme, for which the RFP was issued in July 2008. “The technical evaluation process has now taken over 38 months and has not yet been concluded due to reasons which are unknown to us,” Eurocopter told the Army Chief in the letter.
In January 2014, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against a Brigadier working with Army Aviation Corps for allegedly fudging trial flight records of these helicopters.
By mid-2014 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) remained a Design and Development Project by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), and it had taken some time to finalise the engine for helicopter. Acquisition of LUH did not affect the operations of Advanced Light Helicopters as these helicopters are for different purposes.
The ministry of defence on 29 August 2014 cancelled the Rs 6,000 crore / $1-billion tender to buy 197 light utility helicopters in which Airbus Helicopters AS550 was competing with Kamov’s Ka-226T. It was the second time the light helicopter tender was cancelled by India. From the 197 helicopters — 131 were for the Army Aviation and the rest 66 for the Air Force. Besides, another tender for Naval Utility Helicopters, under which 56 were to be bought, too, got cancelled.
The government decided to allow domestic players to manufacture the helicopters. The Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley put the acquisition under the “Buy and Make Indian” category, allowing the Indian industry to make the helicopters under a joint venture with a foreign manufacturer.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in India on 11 December 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited him to participate in the $3 billion light-utility helicopters project, a signal that he expected India-Russia ties to go beyond ordinary buyer-seller relationships. The project would also be the first big-ticket “Make in India” initiative in the defense sector.
Challenges for HAL
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) recognised HAL’s growing competence in helicopter design by nominating it to design and manufacture half of the 384 light observation helicopters (LOHs) required by India’s military. HAL was given until 2017 to produce 187 LOHs. Meanwhile, the military’s immediate needs would be met by buying 197 LOHs from the international market. The MoD imposed a strict timeline on HAL, including – for the first time ever – a penalty for delay. If HAL overshoots the 2017 deadline, the MoD would procure more helicopters from the global manufacturer selected to supply LOHs; HAL’s order would correspondingly reduce. HAL is confident it would produce the LOH two years ahead of the MoD deadline, by 2015. HAL said in mid-2008 that with the LCH design complete, its in-house design center, called the Rotary Wing R&D Centre (RWRDC), was going full steam ahead on the LOH design.
As of november 2012,the bottom structure assembly of the LUH ground test vehicle is cpmplete and has been taken from the jig last month. According to HAL, “LUH assembly jigs are modular and gaugeless jigs, concurrently designed along with structure design using 3D CAD. There are five assembly jigs and a coupling jig enabling modular and concurrent build- up of the structure. The jigs are built and validated using state-of-the-art CAMS-Computer Aided Measurement System (laser tracker) to establish high accuracy and stability.
General Specifications and Features
The HAL LOH/LUH has the crew capacity of 2 member with the additional passengers capacity of 6 passengers.As design proposed by HAL,The LOH/LCH is powered by a single HAL/Turbomeca (TM333-2C2)Shakti 1U turboshaft engine that is capable of producing 1272Kw of power. The helicopter has the empty weight of 1675kg with the maximum takeof weight 3015kg.
Torque will be countered by a “Fenestron” type ducted tail rotor. All these three technologies will be applied for the first time on an Indian designed helicopter. Among other features of the LOH will be a glass cockpit, and a Health and Usage Monitoring System.
The LOH would feature a roof-mounted stabilised optronic turret housing an integrated long-range observation system comprising a thermal imager, laser rangefinder and daylight TV.
How HAL LOH is better over old ageing Cheetah Helicopter?
The Light Observation Helicopter is a 3-ton helicopter whose all the core components like main rotor,tail rotor,gearbox and weaponry would design and ,manufacture by HAL and rest of the less critical sub-systems are import specialist manufactures in the international market. At 200 kg (440 lbs), the LOH is to have three times the Cheetah’s payload at 18,000 feet above sea level at 20 C, the type of operating conditions needed in north-east Kashmir where the Cheetah conducts border patrols.
How HAL LOH is differ from present Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH)?
The LOH will be designed for operation at high altitudes of up to 6km.It will differ from the present Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) in having an all composite fuselage structure.While the ALH main rotor has elastomeric bearings,that of LOH will be bearingless. In other respects, LOH will have considerable commonality with ALH, particularly in systems and instrumentation.
Unlike the ALH which had technical collaboration from Eurocopter-Germany,LOH will be entirely indigenous.A number of advanced technologies on the LOH are to be integrated into the ALH.Like the LOH,ALH will also have a glass cockpit Health ad Usage Monitoring system,a bearingless main rotor and a ducted tail rotor.Additionally,the other designs such as its mast bearings,transmission system and landing gear are being simplified.Efforts are made to reduce the weight of ALH by using composite material,modern avionics and complete glass cockpit for improving overall efficiency.Although the ALH is already the most advanced model in 4.5 ton to 5 ton class but these improvements made it much better.