The HAL Dhruv (Sanskrit: ध्रुव, "Pole Star") is a multi-role helicopter developed and manufactured by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It is being supplied to the Indian Armed Forces, and a civilian variant is also available. The type was first exported to Nepal and Israel, and is on order by several other countries for both military and commercial uses. Specialized military variants include anti-submarine warfare and helicopter gunship versions.
Hindustan's Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) programme was first announced in November 1984,the ALHwas designed with assistance from MBB in Germany. It followed a similar layout to that of the BK-117 although it is a larger aircraft. The twin 1000shp Turbomeca TM333-2B turboshafts are mounted above the cabin and drive a four-blade composite main rotor. The ALH makes use of an advanced integrated dynamic system which combines several rotor control features into an integrated module. The civil prototype ALH (Z-3182) first flew on 23 August 1992, at Bangalore, followed by a second civil aircraft (Z-3183), an Army version (Z-3268) and a navalised prototype (N.901) with Allied Signal CTS800 engines and a retractable tricycle undercarriage.Even after the first prototype flew in August 1992, problems arose due to the changing demands of the Indian military, funding, and contractual issues with Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm, which was the consultant for design. Further delay was caused by U.S. sanctions after Indian nuclear tests in 1998, which embargoed the engine originally intended to power the helicopter. Then the helicopter used Turbomeca TM 333-2B2 turboshaft producing 746 kW (1000 SHP) each and an agreement was signed with Turbomeca to develop a more powerful engine.
A Weapon System Integrated (WSI) Dhruv is under development for the Indian Military services. It will have stub wings fitted to carry up to eight anti-armour missiles, four air-to-air missiles or four rocket pods for 70mm and 68mm rockets. The WSI variant will also have FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared), CCD (Charge Coupled Device) camera and a target acquisition system with thermal sight and laser rangefinder.
In December 2006, Nexter Systems (formerly Giat) was awarded a contract for the installation of the THL 20 20mm gun turret on the first 20 Indian forces Dhruv helicopters. The turret is armed with the M621 low-recoil cannon and is combined with a helmet-mounted sight.
The helicopter was fitted with the more powerful Shakti engine developed jointly by HAL and Turbomeca, and now entering production. The first test flight of the Dhruv with the new engine and the weaponised version took place on 16 August 2007. The naval version of the helicopter is fitted with the Mihir dunking SONAR which is integrated with the Helicopter Fire Control System.
Deliveries of the Dhruv commenced in 2002, a full ten years after the prototype's first flight, and nearly twenty years after the programme was initiated. The Indian Coast Guard became the first service to bring Dhruv helicopters into service. This was followed by the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. Seventy five Dhruvs were delivered to the Indian armed forces by 2007 and the plan is to produce forty helicopters yearly. One of only three helicopter display teams in the world, the Sarang aerobatic display team of the Indian Air Force performs with four Dhruv helicopters.
The Dhruv is capable of flying at high altitudes, a crucial requirement for the Army, which requires helicopters for operations in Siachen Glacier and Kashmir. In September 2007, the Dhruv was cleared for high-altitude flying in the Siachen Sector after six-month long trials.. In October 2007, a Dhruv flew to an altitude of 27,500 feet (8,400 m) ASL in Siachen. This was the highest that the Dhruv had flown, and was higher than the 25,000 feet (7,600 m) record set by an IAF Cheetah helicopter in 2005.
A further order for 166 helicopters were placed with HAL since the helicopter is working well in higher altitude areas with the Indian Army. The Armed Forces may order 12 ambulances versions for use by the Armed Forces Medical Services for MEDEVAC operations . HAL Dhruv ambulances will have all the emergency medical equipment for the treatment of injured soldiers.
In June 2008, the Hindustan Times reported that the Indian Navy had decided against placing further orders for the Dhruv Naval variant, stating it has failed to meet basic operational requirements. However these rumours were put to rest by the recent comments of the defence minister who stated in the parliament that the navy had not rejected the dhruv as eight Dhruv helicopters are already operating in the Utility role. The Anti-submarine version will not be inducted since it did not suit the requirements of the Indian Navy in anti-submarine role.
Air force/army: Skid gear, crashworthy fuel tanks, bulletproof supply tanks, IR and flame suppression; night attack capability; roles to include attack and SAR.
Naval: Retractable tricycle gear, harpoon decklock, pressure refuelling; fairings on fuselage sides to house mainwheels, flotation gear and batteries.
Coast Guard: High commonality with naval version; nose-mounted surveillance radar; roof-mounted FLIR; starboard side, cabin-mounted 7.62mm machine gun; radar console and operator's seat; liferaft, loudhailer.
HAL also produces a civilian variant of the Dhruv for VIP transport, rescue, policing, offshore operations and air-ambulance role, among others. The interiors of the VIP transport version have been designed by DC Design, an Indian automobile design firm .
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has placed an order for 12 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Chief Test Pilot Wing Commander Upadhyay said the helicopters will have a full set of medical equipment, including ventilators and two stretchers.
The Dhruv has become the first major Indian weapons system to have secured large foreign sales. HAL hopes to sell 120 Dhruvs over the next eight years, , and has been displaying the Dhruv at airshows, including Farnborough and Paris in order to market the Dhruv.
With a unit price at least 15% less than its rivals, Dhruv has elicited interest in many countries, mostly from Latin America, Africa, West Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific Rim nations. Air forces from around 35 countries have sent in their inquiries, , along with requests for demonstrations.
The first foreign orders for the Dhruv were placed by Nepal in early 2004, for 2 Dhruvs. Another Dhruv, a civilian version, was leased to the Israeli Defense Ministry in 2004
HAL also secured an order from the Ecuadorian Air Force for seven Dhruvs. HAL has gained this order amidst strong competition from Elbit, Eurocopter and Kazan. HAL’s offer of $ 50.7 million for seven helicopters was about 32% lower than the second lowest bid from Elbit. Five helicopters will be delivered in February 2009, during the Aero India 2009. The remaining two helicopters will be delivered within six months Ecuadorian Army and Ecuadorian Navy have also expressed unofficial interest in purchasing the helicopter.
Dhruv also participated in a Chilean tender for eight to ten 5.5 tonne, twin engined new generation helicopter, but lost to the Bell Helicopters Bell 412 amid allegations of arm-twisting by the US Government. The evaluation included flights at high altitudes, hot and desert conditions, ship deck landing, search and rescue at 12,500 feet (3,800 m) MSL at a temperature of 2°C as well as long distance ferry flights, clocking 107 flying hours.
India is also reportedly planning to transfer several Dhruvs to Myanmar. This led to protests from Amnesty International, who pointed to the use of components sourced from European suppliers as a possible violation of the EU Arms Embargo of Myanmar. In a
HAL is negotiating with Bolivia for delivery of five Dhruvs and with Venezuela for seven of the choppers in transport roles, and in Europe. The Dhruv is also being offered to Malaysia. Indonesia is also evaluating Dhruv helicopters for the Indonesian Army.
Flight certification for Europe and North America is also being planned, in order to tap the large civilian market there.
Published - July 2009
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