India is speeding up a range of its indigenous helicopter programmes in order to equip the Indian Armed Forces at the earliest. The various programmes that will be focused upon include the ‘Dhruv’ Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) as well as the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). Besides these, India will also induct other transport, attack and multi-role helicopters from the international market.
According to sources, the process will begin with the final round of trials of the weaponised version of India's ALH ‘Dhruv’ helicopter starting with its 20-mm turret gun. This will be initiated next month and followed by trials of its 70mm rockets and MBDA Mistral air-to-air missiles in November this year. At present, the weapon systems are being ground tested in integrated configuration. The Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) is expected by end 2011 and by March 2012, deliveries of the production helicopters would start taking place.
As for the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is earmarking the various systems and equipment that will be incorporated. The raising of assembly jigs and fixtures is currently being undertaken while transmission and rotor system design has been completed. HAL’s plan is to have one ground test vehicle (GTV) and three prototypes of the LUH. The first prototype flight will be in 2012 and IOC is expected by 2014. HAL is aiming at supplying a requirement of 187 helicopters from the Army and IAF. The LUH will replace and augment the existing Cheetah and Chetak fleets of the Armed Forces.
Regarding the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) programme, the first off-base trial at sea level will be done in October this year. This will be followed by off-based hot weather and cold weather trials at high altitude in Ladakh. The weapons trials will be carried between these trials and flight testing will take place by February 2013. The LCH programme has a third prototype being developed which will become a part of the programme. While the orders are yet to be finalized for the LCH, the IAF has stated a requirement of 65 choppers while the Indian Army may go for 114 choppers.
Earlier this year, Defence Ministry revealed that the Indian Armed Forces plan to induct more than 1,000 indigenous and foreign helicopters for attack, transport and utility operations by 2020. These choppers will be inducted into the Army, Navy and Air Force and will include around 450 light utility helicopters, over 200 attack helicopters, 139 Mi-17 transport, 15 heavy-lift helicopters and over 50 multi-role helicopters.