The design of the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters is more than 50 years old. HAL expects the army and IAF to place combined orders for at least 187 light helicopters in the coming years (126 for the army and 61 for IAF)

After wrapping up rigorous flight testing of prototype helicopters in challenging conditions, state-run plane maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has set August 2022 as the deadline for carrying out the maiden test flight of the first chopper in the indigenous light utility helicopter (LUH) limited series production.

LUH will replace the army and the Indian Air Force’s ageing fleets of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters whose safety record has been blemished by a string of crashes.

Around 15 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters have crashed during the last 10 years killing several pilots. Chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat (then a lieutenant general) survived a Cheetah crash in Dimapur on February 3, 2015.

“The first test flight of the LUH in the limited series production (LSP) will be carried out in August, in the 75th year of the country’s independence. HAL is on the verge of getting an order for 12 LUHs --- six each for the army and IAF,” said one of the officials. At his annual press conference on October 2021, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari said the air force would soon place an order for six LUHs.

All trials on the four LUH prototypes are over. The last set of trials to establish LUH’s extra manoeuvrability has been concluded in Ladakh. The army and IAF wanted some changes and LUH performed much better than expected.

LUH production will also begin at HAL’s new helicopter factory in Tumkur in Karnataka. LUH’s first test flight will be carried out from the Tumkur facility. The Bengaluru and Tumkur facilities will be capable of rolling out 100 light helicopters every year, the second official added.