In a significant milestone, the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) developed by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) recently demonstrated its ‘hot & high’ performance at landing pads in the Himalayas.
An HAL media release quoted Chairman R Madhavan saying “the LUH has complied with all the requirements of the users and with the completion of hot and high altitude testing, it is close to operational clearance certification”.
The trials were undertaken by a composite team led by HAL’s Chief Test Pilot Wg Cdr Unni Pillai between Aug 24 to Sep 2, 2019. Members from the IAF, Indian Army, certification and quality assurance agencies were also in attendance.
The LUH has been specifically designed from scratch to meet the exacting requirements of Indian forces. Numerous posts in the Himalayas and Siachen Glacier area are supported by light helicopters from army and IAF. With landing pads in excess of 18000 feet elevation, the LUH will, over time, replace Cheetahs (Lama) in the mountains and Chetaks (Alouette III) in the plains.
For the trials, LUH self-deployed from Bangalore to Leh, a distance of over 3000 km in three days. HAL reports “the chopper revealed high reliability without any service support” during this deployment.
All planned tests were successfully demonstrated, HAL said. This included envelope expansion, performance and flying qualities assessment at Leh airfield located at an elevation of 3300 metres, in ISA+32ºC. ‘Hot and high’ hover performance test points at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at 5000m and higher helipads were also successfully demonstrated upto ISA+27ºC, the media release said.
Performance requirements for operations from such super high altitude helipads place extreme challenges on man & machine. To that extent, the importance of this achievement cannot be understated. Lessons ploughed back from previous programmes should propel this bird onward and upward.
The 3-ton LUH powered by a single turboshaft engine incorporates modern features such as glass cockpit, autopilot & helmet-mounted display system. The latest trials were preceded by hot weather trials in 2018, cold weather trials at Leh in 2019 and sea level trials at Chennai and Puducherry in 2018-19.
While army and air force are heavily invested into this program, the Indian Navy decided on a twin-engine replacement for its light helicopter fleet.
Private industry and foreign OEMs collaborating for a slice of the ‘Make in India’ helicopter pie will watch these developments closely. Another dark horse in the ring is the Russian Ka-226. An HAL-Russian Helicopters JV is expected to produce 200 of these helicopters for India, 60 of which will be delivered in flyaway condition.
Hopefully, the project will deliver more than promise. Delays can cause decision-hypoxia Indian forces can ill-afford.
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2019. All rights reserved. I can be reached at email@example.com. An edited version of this story was carried by Shephard Media, UK on Sep 9th, 2019.
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4 thoughts on “Indian LUH Soars High”
Congratulations to HAL Helicopter Factory, Rotary Wing Design Bureau, Flight Test Division (RW) and especially to Wg Cdr Unni Pillai and the test team. Not forgetting CEMILAC.
Why single engine in hostile conditions why Army could not put QRs for a twin engine.
India already has twin engine ALH. Single eng helicopter is required for high altitude operations requirements.
India is already using twin engine ALH. The single engine LUH is required for high altitude operations at smaller helipads.