The Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) is a medium-lift helicopter currently under development by state-owned aerospace and defence company, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The ground work to produce a 10 to 13 ton attack helicopter by 2027 has already started. This helicopter will be at par with some of the best medium-lift military helicopters globally. The details on progress of the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) were unveiled in Aero India in 2021.

First of all, a word on the economic impact of this mega project. The HAL project will substitute imports of more than Rs 4 lakh crore worth of military helicopters for the three services in the coming years. With a huge potential for export, the HAL intends to target the global helicopter market as well. This project is too enormous and is said to be the biggest project by HAL after the development of the TEJS military jet. Even the design work would be the largest helicopter design attempted by India.

DHRUV's design language is evident in the overall composition of the advanced helicopter

The preliminary design of the helicopter is complete. The first prototype set is expected to be ready by next year.

As commonly understood, the HAL helicopter in the 10 to 13 tons category will replace the ageing Mi-17 fleet, serving Indian military as of now. The Mi-17 helicopters are planned to be phased out by 2032. HAL is aiming to produce at least 500 helicopters of this type, but with more endurance than Mi-17s. An assured demand of at least 400 helicopters is offered by the HAL to selected partners.

What makes India’s Medium-Heavy Helicopter project so important is that besides bolstering the ‘Make in India’ campaign, this project will also give a big boost to the HAL. In the light helicopter category, the HAL already has a range of indigenous products like- Advanced Light Helicopter, Light Combat Helicopter and Light Utility Helicopter. Now it is entering into the bigger league.

HAL has begun the formal process for the selection of partners for design, development, and manufacturing Of IMRH. This involves Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model via special purpose vehicle (SPV) model.

The same is the status of the Deck based naval multi-role helicopter (DBMRH). As of now, the Sea King Mk.42B, which the HAL seeks to replace, is fulfilling the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) requirements of the Navy. The DBMRH will also supplement the recently inducted Lockheed Martin MH-60R Multi Role Helicopters (MRH) fleet.

HAL plans to build 3 IMRH and 3 DBMRH in the next few years that will be used for developmental and flight trials. DBMRH will be a customised Naval Multi-Mission Capability helicopter, worthy of performing Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) / Anti-Surface (ASuW) Special Operations / Search & Rescue (SAR) Utility / Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP), Command and Control (C2).

For any spectator, DBMRH would look similar to IMRH. But DBMRH will have a higher all-up weight and thus a more powerful engine. This is going to be another shot in the arm for HAL. The indigenous HAL Rudra Combat Utility helicopter, the weaponized version of the Advanced Light Helicopter (Dhruv) is already serving the Indian Army & Indian Air Force. This multi role helicopter of 5.8 Ton class is powered by two Shakti engines and can perform anti-tank warfare and can provide close air support for ground troops, besides the scout, fire support, armed reconnaissance and surveillance, escort and EW platform roles. These helicopters have proven their prowess in high-altitude operations in the Himalayas, where helipads are at an altitude of more than 15,000 ft, and in the desert sector on the western front.

The geared-up ecosystem of India’s defence production is also in sync. Recently, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed single crystal blades technology and supplied 60 of these blades to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as part of their indigenous helicopter development program for helicopter engine application.

Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), a premium laboratory of DRDO, has taken up a program to develop five sets (300 in number) of single crystal high pressure turbine (HPT) blades using a nickel-based super-alloy. Very few countries such as the USA, UK, France and Russia have the capability to design and manufacture such state-of-the-art Single Crystal (SX) components, which have a complex shape and geometry, manufactured out of Nickel based super-alloys, and are capable of withstanding high temperatures of operation.