Indian Newly Developed Helicopters Cleared For ‘High-Altitude Warfare’ Amid Tensions With China, Pakistan

The Indian Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) developed by state-owned HAL has cleared almost all its trials and demonstrated its high-altitude capabilities. It is expected to compliment Russian Kamov Ka-226 choppers in the near future.

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Being masters in mountain warfare and serving at the highest battlefield on the planet, the Indian Army’s benchmarks are set high and push the helicopters to their limits. To be a part of the Indian Armed Forces, the high-altitude test is considered utmost crucial and the HAL-built Light Utility Helicopter passed it with flying colors.

Demonstrating its capabilities in harsh weather conditions, the LUH has been undergoing extensive trials in Ladakh for about 10 days. According to a press release from the company on 9th September, a comprehensive test plan was executed at Leh (3300 MAMSL) in temperatures up to ISA+320C which included envelope expansion, performance, and flying qualities.

LUH took off from Leh and demonstrated its hot and high hover performance at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at 5000 MAMSL (Height above mean sea level)

Aiming to replace the current fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, the LUH also demonstrated its payload capability in the mighty heights of Siachen -the world’s highest battlefield.  During the trials, pilots landed the helicopter at the highest helipads of Amar and Sonam.

Giving more details on the flight test, HAL also mentioned that the flights were carried out by a composite trial team which included pilots from HAL, Wg Cdr (Retd) Unni Pillai, CTP (RW), Wg Cdr (Retd) Anil Bhambani, Gp Capt (Retd) Pupinder Singh and Gp Capt V Panwar along with Gp Capt R Dubey, Sq Ldr Joshi (from Indian Air Force) and Lt Col R Grewal & Lt Col Pawan (from  Indian Army). Representatives from certification authority witnessed the trials.

The ongoing tensions with China at the Indo-Tibetan border in Ladakh has seen an intensification in trials of HAL’s products at high altitude, and with the recent push for indigenization, the company eyes fast orders for its LUH, LCH, and Rudra in the otherwise long-drawn procurement processes in bureaucratic circles of India.

When given the final operational clearance and required clearances for civilian applications, HAL expects a total requirement of 1000 such aircraft- military, civilian, and export combined. The Initial Operational Clearance for basic LUH was accorded by CEMILAC for the IAF variant on February 7, 2020, during DefExpo 2020 at Lucknow in the presence of the Defence Minister and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

The company now claims that its Army variant is also ready for the IOC, after demonstrating satisfactory performance in the trials.

The HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter is powered by a single Shakti-1U turboshaft engine and is expected to see extensive use with the Indian Armed Forces. However, the Army and Air Force are also expecting to induct the Russian-made Kamov Ka-226T light utility helicopters for which an agreement was signed between Rostec and HAL to manufacture Ka-226T at a new factory to be built at Tumakuru in India