Bangalore, Feb 4 (IANS) The Indian army will get its first weaponised light attack helicopter, Rudra, on Friday.
An armed variant of HAL's Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), Rudra was formally granted Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) by the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) at a function here Sunday.
"This gives us the confidence and it is a proud moment for the country and boosts our indigenous activities," R.K. Tyagi, chairman and managing director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited said on the occasion.
HAL has been working on the Rudra and another variant, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) for some time. Rudra, named so by the army, will exclusively be used and nearly 80 of these rotorcraft could be supplied to its various units.
So will the LCH, which will have tandem-seating for two pilots, including the weapons operator. This helicopter though will take a little longer but, significantly, this will be capable of going to the Himalayan heights, thanks to the substantial use of lighter composite materials.
Earlier, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was looking at the LCH for high altitude operations, particularly as no country makes helicopters for the Himalayan heights. Now, whatever that requirement will be decided by the army as the ministry of defence recently placed "future" combat helicopter assets with the Indian army.
The IOC certificate was presented to HAL by CEMILAC CEO K. Tamilmani.
As for the Rudra, HAL's managing director for helicopters Soundra Rajan told India Strategic (www.indiastrategic.in) that the Rudra had done 200 hours of prototype test flying, another 50 hours after production and 100 still more hours in different ranges from Pokhran in Rajasthan to Balasore in Orissa and Sikkim in the north-east for weapon trials.
In each case, the helicopter, weapons and systems did well.
Notably, the Mark III version of the rotorcraft, which was without the gun, was flown to 20,000 feet by Army's test pilot Brig Amarjeet Singh Sidhu in August 2011 in high altitude trials.
The Mark IV version, which carries the gun, will be the one to be handed over to the Army at the Aero India venue here.
Rudra is also designated as ALHWSI (ALH-Weapon Systems Integrated). All the electronic, optical and weapon systems have been tested individually and together as an integrated lot, the way they will operate in real conditions.
The machine has three types of weapons, a 20mm French Nexter gun, MBDA's air-to-air and air-to-ground short range missiles, and a Belgian 70mm rocket system. The gun can swing up, down and around.
The aircraft has a glass cockpit, and the weapons can be fired by a pilot simply by moving his head in the direction of the designated target, thanks to the electro-optical systems and cueing helmet from Israel's Elbit.
Systems integration is done by HAL itself and rugged, sophisticated computers are being used on the Rudra as well as the LCH. The aircraft has components also from Germany, South Africa and Italy, thanks indeed to the involvement of German and European companies in its design and development.
The aircraft is propelled by HAL's Shakti engine, jointly developed with Safran Turbomeca of France. That is also the engine of choice for the ALH and its attack variant, LCH.
Soundra Rajan, who has been working on the project for some time, described the machine as powerful and modern, pointing out that the Army has been involved in its development throughout.