Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA May-June 2017 Contents flawed blades were replaced.
Other salient features include a four-axis automatic
flight control system (AFCS), anti-resonance
isolation system, crashworthy seats and crumple
zones able to withstand impacts of 10 m/s, night
vision compatible glass cockpit, and heavy use of
composite materials to save weight and improve
maintainability. The Dhruv can accommodate 12
passengers, but in high-density configuration can
accept 14 people. Removable clamshell doors
provide easy cabin access.
Early Dhruvs were powered by Turbomeca TM
333-2B2/2C turboshafts developing 740 kW.
However, this did not allow the first 40 aircraft to
reach their intended 6500 metre service ceiling,
resulting in HAL and Turbomeca developing the
Ardiden 1H/Shakti engine producing some 1000
kW, which greatly improved performance.
Production is underway on the Mk III version of the
Dhruv, featuring Shakti engines, new defensive aids
suite, glass cockpit and improved vibration control
system. Deliveries of the Mk III began in 2011, with
HAL producing around two dozen Dhruvs a year.
The Indian military is committed to buying several
hundred Dhruvs, with the Air Force receiving 54, with
plans to acquire 82 to replace Chetaks/Cheetahs.
The Army is receiving 105. Initial deliveries began
three years behind schedule, in March 2002.
However it was only in September 2007 the Indian
Army cleared it for deployment to the Siachen area
of the Himalayas. A major milestone came on 28
September 2016 when 150 Indian troops were
airlifted by Dhruvs into Kashmir to destroy terrorist
positions - the first time the helicopter was used in
an offensive operation.
HAL is also producing the Mk IV Weapon System
Integrated (WSI), or Rudra, variant. The Air Force
and Army are set to acquire 76 of these. The Rudra,
which first flew in August 2007, is able to carry up
to eight Helina anti-tank or four Mistral 2 air-to-air
missiles and 68 and 70 mm rocket pods. A Nexter
M621 20 mm cannon is fitted under the nose.
The Indian Navy had planned to be a big Dhruv
operator, but only eight were delivered from 2002,
and a planned order for 40 was put on hold after
the aircraft failed to meet basic requirements.
Nevertheless, the Navy will receive another 16, after
pushing for changes such as reduced weight and
improved range. The naval Dhruv features Kevlar
flotation bags, torpedoes/depth charges or four
anti-ship missiles, Mihir dipping sonar and SV-
2000 Super Vision maritime radar. Naval Dhruvs
will replace some 30 obsolete Chetaks operating
alongside two dozen Sea Kings and a handful of Ka-
28s, but the Navy is also seeking around 100 twin-
engined Naval Utility Helicopters. In addition, Israel
Aerospace Industries is working with the Defence
Research Development Organisation (DRDO) to
transform Chetaks into unmanned aircraft that can
be operated from ships.
Another small operator is the Coast Guard, with
four Dhruvs, but these will be bolstered by the 16
new aircraft on order. They will be equipped with
a forward-looking infra-red imager, rescue hoist,
liferaft, loudhailer, surveillance radar and capacity for
a cabin-mounted 7.62 mm machinegun. The Coast
Guard also flies around 17 Chetaks.
HAL markets a civil version of the Dhruv, which
has been sold to various Indian government entities
such as the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, a
number of State Governments and the Geological
Survey of India. The Border Security Force
received eight Dhruvs for personnel transport and
border patrol duties.
Internationally, they have been exported to
Nepal (two), Mauritius (the Mauritius Police Forces
operates one), and the Maldives, which received
three donated examples. HAL and Israel Aircraft
Industries (IAI) signed an agreement to market the
Dhruv and IAI began leasing one in June 2005 to
this end, but it was subsequently grounded after an
Indian example crashed that year.
The biggest export sale came in June 2008
when Ecuador agreed to purchase seven of them
for US $50.7 million. However, exports have not
gone as smoothly as the company may have hoped.
Ecuador in October 2016 put up its three surviving
Dhruvs for disposal after losing four in crashes
between October 2009 and January 2015, with
half the crashes attributed to pilot error and half to
mechanical failure. After the crashes, the surviving
platforms were grounded and placed in storage
whilst awaiting disposal.
Poor quality control and unsatisfactory
maintenance and after-sales support has hurt the
Dhruv in local and foreign service. Over a dozen
military and civil Dhruvs have crashed, with a third
due to technical problems and the rest due to pilot
error. Technical failures have been due to gearbox
failures, while issues with cyclic control saturation
and vibration have yet to be fully resolved – HAL has
limited top speed and implemented a dangerous
manoeuvre warning system as partial fixes.
Nevertheless, HAL recently indicated it is exploring
the possibility of exporting Dhruvs to Sri Lanka and
responding to interest from Vietnam and Myanmar,
but former executive director Murli Samarao
cautioned that the helicopter needs to undergo
further refinement before exports should take place,
and this could take several years. Improvements also
need to be made to logistics and support for the
helicopter. Meanwhile, HAL is trying to get EASA
(European Aviation Safety Agency) certification to
boost export prospects.
Loosely derived from the Dhruv is the 5.8 tonne
class Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), which
is close to entering service. Like the Dhruv, the
LCH is powered by twin Shakti engines and uses
many Dhruv features such as rotor systems, but
in a slimmed down fuselage with tandem seating,
tricycle crashworthy landing gear, crashworthy and
self-sealing fuel tanks and armour protection. HAL
claims the design, through its angled fuselage, has a
An armed Dhruv. (Saab photo)
18 DefenceReviewAsia | MAY/JUNE 2017
DRA MayJune 2017.indd 18
27/04/2017 4:11 PM
Links Archive DRA March-April 2017 DRA July-August 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page