20:55 GMT14 August 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): India’s 1.5 million armed personnel have for years been waiting to replace the military’s aging light helicopters. The Chetak and Cheetah choppers are considered a lifeline for army formations and troops deployed at icy heights, especially in the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battlefield.

    India’s state-funded Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on Friday announced approval for starting production of the 3-ton light utility helicopter, after it received Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the chopper.

    The go-ahead for the light utility helicopter, which is meant to replace ageing Cheetah, has come after years of trials in all-weather conditions.

    The Indian Armed Forces have been facing a shortage of over 400 helicopters in this category.

    After receiving Initial Operational Clearance certificate from country’s defence research unit chief Sateesh Reddy in Lucknow city, HAL chief R. Madhavan said: “It reinforces our commitment towards indigenous R&D programmes on self-reliance and enhancing operational effectiveness of the Indian Armed Forces. HAL is fully geared up to fulfil the requirements of its customers in a time bound manner.” 

    Fitted with the Safran HE Ardiden-1U engine, rated 750 KW, the helicopter weighs 3150 kg. It is capable of flying at 220 kilometres per hour, with a service ceiling of 6.5 km and a range of 350 km with 400 kg payload.

    The developer is now moving towards the next phase of integrating and flight testing of mission and role equipment on the light utility helicopter.

    The single engine highly agile utility helicopter will be inducted into the army and air force to meet its operational requirements, as the armed forces will soon replace the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.

    The aviation behemoth has built three prototypes and cumulatively completed over 550 flights under various terrains and climatic conditions like cold weather, hot weather, sea-level and high altitude complying with stringent certification and user requirements.

    “Its endurance and reliability were established during the hot weather and high-altitude trials where in LUH was ferried from Bengaluru, covering over 7000 kms of distance and continuously flying for 17 days without any abnormalities,” the manufacturer HAL claimed.

    It is expected that HAL will ship about 30 helicopters annually from this year and that the capacity will be doubled from 2023.

    Due to the arduous terrain of India's Eastern and Northern borders, this class of light utility helicopters is essential for maintaining enhanced defence preparedness and operational readiness. 


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