Why hasn’t the Indian Air Force retired the Cheetah and Chetak?
There is no replacement available yet . ALH has partly replaced some of the sectors they operate in but it is not as light as these two. The DRDO/ HAL version called Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) is still under development. Developed indigenously by HAL, having in principal order for 187 LUHs that includes 126 for Indian Army and 61 for IAF, LUH will meet requirements of both military and civil operators. Being the new generation helicopter, LUH is designed and developed by Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre (RWR&DC) of HAL to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters used by Indian Armed Forces. The LUH’s first prototype, PT-1, first flew on 6 September 2016 and the second prototype flew on 22 May 2017.
Progress of Development
The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has achieved an important milestone of flying at 6 km altitude in Bengaluru, recently. The chopper was flown by chief test pilot Wg Cdr Unni K Pillai (Retd) and test pilot, Wg Cdr Anil Bhambhani (Retd).
“The helicopter exhibited satisfactory performance and handling qualities. With the completion of this milestone, LUH can now undertake high-altitude cold weather trials planned in January 2019,” HAL said in a statement.
Flying at 6 km altitude is a critical requirement towards the certification of LUH, and this represents a significant achievement for the development team at HAL. The helicopter was flown to undergo envelope expansion tests, it has a permitted height limit of 6.5 km.
The helicopter with Glass Cockpit will be deployed for Reconnaissance, Surveillance roles and as a light transport helicopter. The helicopter will be capable of flying at 235 Kmph, with a service ceiling of 6.5 Km and a range of 350 Km with 400 kg payload and is powered by TM/HAL Ardiden 1U/Shakti 1U single turbo shaft engine with sufficient power margins to cater to demanding high altitude missions.
Historic Delay Since First RFP in 2003
Plans to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak chopper fleet of the Army and Air Force are set to get delayed, thanks to indecision of the Defence Ministry over conducting of the field trials.
Of the 197 choppers to be procured, the Army will get 133 choppers and rest 54 will go to IAF for replacing their old French-origin fleet.
The two forces need a total of 384 choppers, of which 197 will be supplied by foreign vendors and the rest would be co-developed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited with a foreign manufacturer.
- The previous tender was issued in 2003 and American Bell and Eurocopter were shortlisted for field trials.
- The original plan was to induct 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs) starting from 2009-10 but the process has not moved beyond the Request for Proposal stage and the vendors response to it.
- This is the second time the Rs 3,500 crore tender has been released for inducting 197 LUHs as the first acquisition process was cancelled in 2007 after it was found that Eurocopter had fielded a civilian variant of its chopper for the trials.
- The cancellation of the previous process in 2007 had pushed back the deal by four years and the present delays in the field trials would mean that the choppers can start getting inducted only in 2013-14 given there are no further delays in the process, they said.
- Three vendors, including Eurocopter, Italian Agusta Westland and Russian Mil Corporation, submitted their responses in December 2008 to the tender issued in June last year.
- The Kamov-226T light utility choppers, to be built with Russia, are to replace these helicopters. However, the $1-billion programme is yet to kick off and the military may have to wait several years for the new machines. Russia will supply 60 helicopters in flyaway condition while the remaining 140 will be manufactured in India.
Stop Gap Arrangements (2017)
- The Indian Army plans to replace early variants of Cheetahs and Chetak light-utility helicopters with the home-grown advanced light helicopters (ALH) after string of crashes raise safety concerns.
- The army’s aviation wing would replace 41 Cheetahs and Chetaks with new helicopters from the “ALH reserve stock” and the proposal would be sent for Cabinet committee on security approval soon.
Source:- Hitesh Lav Quora