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India's HAL begins limited series-production of Light Utility Helicopter

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has begun limited series-production of its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) for the Indian military after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in New Delhi officially expressed its intent to acquire the locally developed rotorcraft.

Quoting from a letter of intent received by the state-owned company in early March, official sources told Janes on 23 March that HAL will initially build 12 LUHs – six each for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Army Aviation Corps (AAC) – at its new INR50 billion (USD690 million) helicopter manufacturing facility in the city Tumakuru, about 74 km north of Bangalore.

The first LUH is scheduled for delivery in August 2022 to mark India’s 75th independence anniversary and to showcase New Delhi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, which is aimed at reducing imports of military equipment.

Thereafter, HAL anticipates orders for at least 187 LUHs – 126 for the AAC and 61 for the IAF – to replace the obsolete Chetak (Aerospatiale Alouette III) and Cheetah (Aerospatiale SA-315B) helicopters that the two services have been operating since the mid-1960s.

Under development since 2008, the single engine, 3.15-tonne LUH received its initial operational clearance (IOC) from the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) in Bangalore in February 2020, following rigorous user trials.

Powered by a single Shakti 1U turboshaft engine – a derivative of the Shakti (Arididen 1H1) engine developed jointly by HAL and France’s Turbomeca – the LUH has a two-man crew and an operating range of 350 km.

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