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HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter successfully undertakes maiden flight
September 18, 2019
The first Light Utility Helicopter prototype. Photo credit: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited

HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter successfully undertakes maiden flight

Yesterday, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) successfully undertook its maiden test flight in Bengaluru.

According to HAL’s official press release, the LUH flew for 15 minutes. HAL termed the test flight as “flawless.”

HAL is hopeful that the LUH will – in addition to replacing India’s fleet of Chetak utility helicopters – “capture a sizable share both in [the] domestic and international market.”

The LUH weighs 3,150 kg and is powered by a Safran Ardiden 1U turboshaft engine capable of producing 750 KW in power. The LUH has a stated range of 350 km and a service ceiling of 6,500 metres. It can carry up to six passengers as well as two pilots.

Notes, Comments & Analysis:

The LUH is the third in HAL’s line-up of helicopters and joins the Dhruv and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). This should round-out India’s light and light-to-medium helicopter line.

Notwithstanding an influx of a large number of comparable imports from the U.S., Europe or Russia, the HAL LUH should be able to benefit from India’s domestic scale. Alongside competitive material and labour costs, the scale will enable HAL to offer the LUH at an internationally competitive price point.

The LUH’s international success will be conditional on the Indian government’s commitment to growing India’s high-value manufactures exports. While not exclusive to HAL or the LUH, policies such as the offer of $500 million U.S. in credit to Vietnam will help India secure lucrative markets. In fact, the market need not be limited to defence, the light utility design can be marketed towards civilian users as well.

However, one will need to observe India’s lightweight helicopter tender. The requirement for 197 light utility helicopters for the Army and Air Force will be open for competition, and it is expected that foreign vendors – along with their local Indian private sector partners – will compete. While a foreign winner will result in sizable work for the Indian economy, it may hamper the marketability of the LUH.