State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics has started the groundwork to manufacture 10 to 12 tonne attack helicopters by 2027. These helicopters can be comparable to medium-lift military choppers used globally like the Apache of Boeing.
The aim of the project is to stop the import of more than Rs 4 Lakh core worth of attack helicopters from other countries, news agency PTI quoted R Madhavan, the Chairman and Managing Director of HAL, as saying.
Madhavan told the agency that the PSU has completed the initial design of the helicopter and that the plan is to produce at least 500 units. According to Madhavan, the first prototype is set to be ready by 2023 if the government gives the go-ahead.
"One major project we are focusing on is to produce a helicopter in 10 to 12 tonnes category to replace the Mi-17 fleet. It will be an indigenous platform with the potential to manufacture around 500 helicopters. It will stop the import of more than Rs 4 lakh crore worth of platforms from foreign countries," said Madhavan. According to Madhavan, an amount of Rs 9,600 will be required for the design and production of the prototype.
"If we get the approval in 2020, we will be able to manufacture the first chopper by 2027. We are looking at producing at least 500 helicopters of the variant. It will be a major project we are working on," he said. This project would be the biggest that HAL has taken after the development of Tejas aircraft, he added.
"We have done the preliminary design. We have also been in discussion with the Air Force and the Navy. The 10-12 tonnes category will have two basic structures on similar platforms. The naval version will have different dimensions compared to the one for the Army and the Air Force," Madhavan said on the proposed mega project.
"Like the LCH (Light Combat Helicopter) we developed from the Dhruv platform, a similar variant of 10-12 tonnes category can be produced to make it an Apache equivalent," said Madhavan,
Two twin engines would power the helicopters. The helicopter's blade would be foldable so as to allow ship deck operations. The role of the helicopter would be to support air assault, air transport, combat logistics, and combat search and rescue. Madhavan said the helicopter will have a huge potential for export.
The Mi-17 helicopters make up the backbone of the IAF's helicopter fleet and they are planned to be phased out by 2032. The HAL's product range includes a number of helicopter-like the LCH (Light Combat Helicopter) and multi-role ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) and Chetak choppers.