DRDO developing special armour panels for Dhruv

The Indian Army’s indigenously developed Dhruv advanced light helicopter will now have locally developed special armour panels for protection against enemy fire.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has designed and developed lightweight ceramic-faced composite armour panels for the Dhruv’s army variant.

The armour panels, according to a recent in-house DRDO bulletin, will protect the aircrew and the flying machine’s critical parts against heavy calibre small arms fire.

The panels will be able to withstand hits from 12.7 mm armour piercing ammunition.Composite laminates were made from modified epoxy resin and reinforced with Kevlar fabric. Kevlar-epoxy composite laminates of different thickness have been prepared, depending upon the criticality and vulnerability of the components they are meant to protect.

The composites were made in accordance with the requirements put forward by the Helicopter Division of Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which designed and developed the Dhruv.

Armour test panels, according to the DRDO, had been subjected to firing trials against 12.7 mm ammunition at Ordnance Factory, Varangaon, and these were able to provide successful ballistic protection.

Prototype armour panels have been manufactured in collaboration with a Bangalore-based private aviation firm in accordance with user requirements.

Carriage and flight trials of the panels have also been “successfully” conducted.

The development of indigenous composite armour assumes significance in the light of the Army going in for armed versions of Dhruv for tactical battlefield support missions.

The Indian Army, which has two squadrons of the Dhruv, is reported to be raising a third squadron on this type, which would be the armed variant. HAL has integrated a range of weapon systems and mission control suites with the helicopter and the evaluation is under way.

Dhruv will have an anti-tank capability and also provide close air support to ground columns against enemy formations and defences.

Battlefield surveillance will be another role. Data-link for command and control, air-to-ground missiles, rockets, machine guns along with electronic warfare suite and self defence measures which include missile warning receivers, flare and chaff dispensers and infra-red jammers are being retro-fitted on the Dhruv.