In a fillip to indigenous helicopter industry, the Light Utility Helicopter designed and developed by HAL has received its Initial Operational Clearance, paving the way for its production. The Indian Army is in desperate need for LUHs—a lifeline for soldiers posted at the world’s highest battlefield on the inhospitable Siachen Glacier in the Himalayas. Army's efforts for having these helicopters went through three cancellations, with the latest in 2014. The Army is depending on its vintage helicopters fleet of Cheetah/Chetak and they have lived way beyond the threshold by more than 12-15 years. These copters were purchased from France and inducted into the Indian Army over 40 years ago in 1971. There is a need for more than 600 helicopters for the armed forces.
According to an HAL official, LUH is a single engine, light weight, highly agile 3-Ton Utility Helicopter. Three prototypes have been built and cumulatively completed over 550 flights under various terrains and climatic conditions like cold weather, hot weather, sea-level and high altitude complying to stringent certification and user requirements. The official maintained that its endurance and reliability were established during the hot weather and high-altitude trials as the LUH was ferried from Bengaluru, covering over 7,000 kms of distance and continuously flying for 17 days without any abnormalities.
The HAL is also simultaneously working to manufacture 200 Kamov 226 helicopter in collaboration with Russian Helicopters.
Announcement of Initial Operational Clearance was done at the DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow. Over 200 partnerships involving signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Transfer of Technology (ToT) and Product launches were concluded on the third day of the DefExpo, at a ceremony tilted “Bandhan”.
These pacts, aimed at forging and renewing partnerships for innovative collaboration, and transformation of the defence manufacturing in the country were inked by representatives of various DPSUs, Indian private defence companies and foreign companies in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath.
Describing the signing of MoUs as a step in the direction to achieve the prime minister's $5 billion defence exports target in next 5 year, Rajnath Singh said that the defence PSUs and the Indian defence private industry were better placed today to lead the country as the emerging R&D hub of the world, leveraging the sharp minds of Indian youth.
"The liberalised licensing regime brought out by the government would surely attract large investments by both Indian and global companies," he stressed.
Among those MoUs signed today, 23 were by Uttar Pradesh government. Adityanath said these MoUs envisage Rs 50,000 crore investment in the defence corridor setup in the state and generate 3 lakh job opportunities. He assured that investments coming to the state were secure and the state investment policy was the most attractive.
Enhancing Indian Army's strike capability, OFB launched “Sharang”, the 155mm artillery gun with 36 km range. A model of the artillery gun was handed over to Chief of Army Staff Gen M.M. Naravane. OFB also launched JVPC Alpha gun of 100 mt range, Light Machine Gun of 800 mt range and UBGL (Under Barrel Grenade Launcher). BDL launched Amogha-3, the anti-Tank Guided Missile, man portable fire and forget missile.
BDL also launched Varunastra – the anti-submarine torpedo—manufactured under the technological guidance of DRDO.