HAL to supply components for 300 Su-30 fighters to Russia

India's state-run aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will supply components for the assembly of 300 Sukhoi Su-30MK multi-role fighters to a Russian aircraft manufacturer.

Under the deal signed here last month during Indian Defence Minister A K Antony's visit, HAL will supply large components to Russia's Irkut Corporation for assembling the airframes of Su-30MK fighters. The Russian firm is working on Indian, Malaysian and Algerian export orders.

"We had to cross several bureaucratic barriers over the years before this landmark deal could be finalised," President of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Alexei Fedorov said.

The UAC official declined to divulge the value of the deal between HAL and the Russian firm.

He said the highly successful Indo-Russian cooperation in the Su-30MKI project laid the base for the inter-governmental agreement for the joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGA).

HAL to develop two new choppers

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, India’s aircraft maker, plans to design and manufacture two new helicopters in an effort to meet growing demand from India’s military.

The two models are a lighter and smaller craft than the company’s Dhruv advanced light helicopter and a heavier 10-tonne multi-role helicopter that can lift cargo and troops to high-altitude regions in the Himalayas and the North Eastern parts of the country.

HAL said that the 10-tonne helicopter, which will be similar to the MI-17 of the Russians, will be jointly developed with a yet to be identified foreign collaborator; it did not disclose details of the light helicopter.

“We presently have an observation helicopter in the three tonne class like the Chetak; Dhruv is in the six tonne class and we want one in a heavier class,” said Ashok K Baweja, chairman, HAL at a seminar on helicopter technology organized by the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industry (SIATI).

“It should be configured to Indian conditions, it should fly in both hot temperatures and high altitudes,” he added, referring to the heavier helicopter. While no time frame has been mentioned for the lighter helicopter, the heavy helicopter will be built in six years.However, an industry expert said that HAL has been looking seriously at the ligher helicopter too.

“HAL is taking people of the Chetak and Cheetah (assembly) line and will utilize their expertise on developing the new light helicopter,” said Air Marshal (retd) K Sridharan, president of the Rotary Wing Society of India, a body of helicopter pilots and engineers in the country.

HAL has produced over 700 Chetak and Cheetah helicopters in the country under license from Eurocopter, the Franco-German-Spanish division of EADS, the European aerospace company.

In 1998, HAL had announced that it would indigenously build a three-tonne class light observation helicopter designed for operation at high altitudes of up to 6 km though it later scrapped the project.

The company has delivered close to 100 Dhruv advanced light helicopters to the armed forces; these aircraft are also used by civilian customers such as ONGC Ltd.

HAL's Light Combat Helicopter will be ready by December 2008

The first prototype of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), being designed and developed by State-owned aviation major, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be ready for its maiden flight between October and December next year, according to HAL Chairman Ashok K. Baweja.

On the sidelines of a seminar on “Helicopter Technology” here on Tuesday, Mr. Baweja said, the detailed design drawing of the LCH would be completed by December this year. “We will be then releasing the drawings to make parts.

The first prototype should be ready between October and December 2008,” he told presspersons. Eventually, the LCH would fit into the IAF’s attack helicopter squadron.

Elaborating on the HAL’s current project to develop a 10-tonne attack helicopter, Mr. Baweja said the HAL was now looking for co-development partners for the project. “We are at the stage of firming up specifications with the customers and finding partners. Work is in that preparatory mode.

The helicopter will have to be configured for Indian conditions, very high altitudes and very hot temperatures. Most machines in the world are a little short on that,” he explained.

The 10-tonne copter would be in the same class as the Mi-17. The helicopter, which will augment the current fleet of the three-tonne class observation choppers and the six-tonne class Dhruv, would initially be made as a military version.
Hawks coming soon

The first four of the Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft, Hawk, ordered by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to replace its ageing Kiran aircraft, would land at the Air Force Station, Bidar, within the next 15 days, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major told the journalists. “They should be here by November 15 or 16,” he announced.

India had ordered 66 trainers from BAe Systems, the UK-based manufacturers of the aircraft. Twenty four of the aircraft were scheduled to come in a ready to fly configuration, the rest to be built under license at HAL’s Bangalore complex.

India's Vihang Netra UAV takes to the skies

The oft-used Army adages ‘unity is strength’ and ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ has literally come true for a group of small entrepreneurs in Pune.

Members of the DEMA Manufacturers’ Association, which began first as an association of small electronics manufacturing units catering to the defence electronics sector, decided to form a consortium to take on orders from the defence sector.

And they did the unimaginable. As a 50-member consortium, instead of small isolated units, they built an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called Vihang Netra for the Armed Forces. They pooled their resources in domains, going all the way from aerospace, avionics, navigation, sensors, radars, fuses, smart weapons, radio networks, thermal imaging, image processing, safety equipment, ground support equipment for missiles and quality assurance equipment.

“The UAV has been accepted by the Indian Army since units have flown at an altitude of 1,000 feet above mean sea level (MSL), requiring smaller crew and ground support operations against imported variety. So, to explore the potential of this indigenous development, DEMA has formed a strategic partnership through an MoU with Larsen & Toubro.

Under the MoU, Larsen & Toubro and DEMA members will work together to upgrade and supply the UAVs to end-users,” says Wavelet group head and DEMA member Vishwas Udpikar.

Explaining the objectives of the consortium, he says that these include “removing the fear of the unknown from the minds of the small industrial entrepreneurs over working for defence and providing all the necessary support for successful work towards defence.”

The consortium model proposes to provide a single umbrella for the inter-disciplinary and wide variety of requirements of defence. This has become possible due to a wide spectrum of domains covered by its members, says Kasco Industries partner and DEMA Manufacturers Association president DS Kamlapurkar.

Referring to the development of the completely indigenously built UAV, members explained that it began under the guidance of former president Abdul Kalam, when he was scientific adviser to the defence minister and the director, Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment.

“We had to indigenise key technologies like the air-frame, controls, navigation, imaging, communication, flight consoles, ground equipment and delivery of units to DRDO. These units have now collectively flown over 400 sorties and more than 100 of these have been beyond the visual range of control,” says Udpikar.

Following up on the success both, of the consortium approach and the UAV, DEMA is now looking at setting up a cluster of its own, targeted at the defence sector. The cluster will address the specific needs of defence-related development and supply.

Such a cluster is expected to bring several centres of excellence in all the diverse areas at one location, giving an impetus to this vital area of national growth. Udpikar is confident of the cluster actually happening since DEMA has established methods of the consortium and working together over a long period.

The defence cluster will additionally provide test, validation and certification facilities for defence-related production. Dr Natarajan, scientific adviser to the defence minister, has given a favourable response to this idea and DEMA has also asked the DRDO to participate in it by providing land near Pune.

Despite the requirements of the defence sector being worth hundreds of crores of rupees, most equipment is imported and domestic research and development in this sector is negligible. While this is attributable partly to a lack of a long-term roadmap for development by the armed forces, it ensures that the country remains dependent on expensive imports of sensitive equipment.

“Our effort to set up a defence-related R&D sector is to overcome the lack of research in such a critical area,” says Kamlapurkar.

Member units of the consortium have begun using the reliability centre at the auto cluster promoted by the central government and the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture.

DEMA was formed in 1989 under the guidance of late admiral Mudholkar by a few industrial units then pursuing defence-related products in the Pune region. The organisation now covers most defence-related organisations, the DRDO, the three Services, defence production units, PSUs in defence (HAL, BEL etc.) and the DGST and DGQA. The collective turnover of these units is over Rs 200 crore.

Dhruv flown at 27,500 feet

Dhruv flown at 27,500 feet

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv is doing wonders at the newly opened high-altitude airbase at Manasbal (Srinagar) close to the Siachen area.

Three of its pilots were the first to take the ALH to heights higher than Manasbal, which was also the first time an Indian helicopter was taken to that height.

C D Upadhyay, Unni Pillai and M U Khan flew the ALH at an incredible altitude of 27,500 feet in the Siachen area braving icy winds.

Upadhyay describes that flight: "We started climbing stage by stage... 20,000 feet, 23, 24, 25, 26 and then 27,500. It had never been done before. We were hovering and watching a Cheetal (another helicopter) land just below us at 25,100 feet. Landing at that height isn’t easy. We were ready to pick up the pilot if something went wrong.

"Naturally, we had to be at a higher altitude. It was cold and we were wrapped in woollens. There wasn't a single rattle at 27,500 ft... We'd worked out if the Cheetal could make 25,000 feet, the ALH could do more. We hadn't tried it on the Siachen Glacier. We succeeded."

Upadhyay and his co-pilots tried out the copter at that height above the Leh runway and the hills before taking on the glacier.

Minutes before the flight, Upadhyay said: "We checked the engine, then the software. It was fine. We were confident the copter would perform 100 per cent. Then we checked on the oxygen. At 27,000 feet, you need pressurised oxygen and a continuous supply. We ensured that. We did all the checks. We just took-off. The ALH was a beauty."

Upadhyay and his co-pilots were the first to put the ALH through the glacier. They flew it in extreme cold conditions. They flew it after an overnight soak. Then in chilly winds, almost blizzard-like conditions.

Upadhyay and co. did not have risk on their mind. "We didn't have the time to think. So there was no worrying. In any case, flying is part of our life. We have done it before and we'll keep doing it in future. If you love what you do, you don't think of what turns out for you. You learn to expect that in a pilot's life."

India's National Aerospace Laboratory working on regional jet

India's National Aerospace Laboratory working on regional jet

6 October 2007

Having already delivered 10 indigenously-developed Hansa two-seater trainer turbo-prop aircraft, the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) at Bangalore is well on its way to developing the 14-seater Saras light transport aircraft, Dr AR Upadhya, director, NAL, told a packed auditorium at Zephyr 2007, the aerospace meet of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Powai, Mumbai, on Saturday 6 October.

Two prototypes of the rear mounted twin-engine Saras are already ready, with the aircraft having made its successful maiden flight, powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, on 14 April 2007, Dr Upadhya said. He said full flight certification was expected in 2009. The aircraft earlier was about 500kg overweight, which had been reduced by a greater use of light carbon-fibre composites and a more powerful engine.

NAL is also working on a four- and six-seater aircraft, presently named NM5, in a public-private partnership with Mahindra Plexion, and expects the first flight of the prototype to take place by the end of 2008.

But the most ambitious NAL project is a 70-seater regional jet, which is to have a 50-seater turbo-prop variant as well as a 90-seater extended version.

Apart from regional jet makers Bombardier and Embraer, a number of countries are already in advanced stages of production of regional aircraft, including China, Russia and Japan, Dr Upadhya disclosed, adding that to be successful, NAL's version would have to be lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient than those made by its competitors.

He was quick to add, though, that civil aviation was only one of the dozen or more divisions in NAL, and that the laboratories were technology providers to all sectors of the aerospace industry. NAL also has longstanding foreign collaborations with a number of countries, including China Aerosspace (CAe) and jet turbine makers Pratt & Whitney, with whom it has jointly set up a number of jet propulsion test equipment stations.

Among NAL's more visible achievements is its expertise in carbon fibre composites, a field in which it has made a number of developments, including a pilot project to manufacture the raw materials. It has also pioneered new lower-cost methods through vacuum-enhanced resin infusion technology for making composite components (being used for the wings of the Saras aircraft), as well as indigenously developed autoclaves for curing, which are used by Indian aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

The composite wings for India's prestigious fourth-generation Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) have spars developed by NAL, which has also developed the middle part of the fuselage and airframe, as well as the doors for the landing gear. Around 90 per cent of the LCA's surface, and 45 per cent of the aircraft by weight is made from advanced composites.

Compsites technology is also used for repair of Indian Air Force aircraft, in making radomes for Doppler radars used for weather forecasting by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and to make radomes for IAF aircraft. Upadhya said that the NAL has a number of collaborative projects in these areas with HAL. The institution has also specialised in failure analysis, and its scientists and engineers are always involved in crash investigations, he said.

Among other pioneering projects is developing shape memory alloys, to be used for the fins of the reusable launch vehicles being developed by ISRO, developing hydrophobic coatings to bring down laminar flow in aircraft and spacecraft, and developing the technology to burn fuel at supersonic speeds in scramjets, required by ISRO for its air-breathing hypersonic launch vehicle.

It has also developed a prototype for a 55 HP Wankel rotary engine, and is working on a microgas turbine, for which all the parts have already been produced and integration is underway. Another field is development of micro-air vehicles, for surveillance purposes.

In launch vehicle space technology, the NAL has developed Zirconi-based ceramic inserts for high temperature tolerances up to 3,200 degrees Kelvin. It has also developed mouldless slurry casting, nano-technology coatings for precision tools and magnetic non-contact bearings. A runway visibility meter its has developed is now used at a number of airports, including at Goa and Kochi, Dr Upadhya said.

Test equipment is vital to the field of aerospace, and this is one of NAL's specialities, Dr Upadhya pointed out. Among test equipment developed is wind tunnels, both for aviation as well as space flight, aero-elastic modelling techniques, computational fluid dynamics, flow visualisation and pressure-sensitive paint, G-meters for aircraft, software to monitor aircraft performance, active noise control devices, and a semi-free jet test rig (with Pratt & Whitey).

Dhruv to be used to fight terror

Dhruv to be used to fight terror

Srinagar, Oct. 4,2007

After the successful trials in the icy heights of Siachen, India's indigenously-developed helicopter Dhruv has been inducted in the Indian army for providing logistic support to the ground troops during counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

This multifaceted helicopter will provide a new capability to the security forces in the state and can also be effectively used for disaster relief, search and rescue operations and casualty evacuation.

Dhruv, the multi-role advanced light helicopter, would be stationed at Indian army's state-of-the-art aviation base at Manasbal in Ganderbal district.

Developed by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, this versatile new generation helicopter is capable of carrying out multiple tasks at the same time.

A scintillating display of formation flying, high gravity manoeuvres, slithering operations and high speed small team insertion operations were given by a team of Dhruv helicopters led by commanding officer of the squadron Colonel Rakesh Kapoor at the inauguration of the Manasbal aviation base on Monday.

The Dhruv helicopters had successfully conducted test trials in the Siachen in February this year.

After its induction, Dhruv will join the Mi-17, Chetak, Cheetah and Chetan helicopters, which fly daily in Siachen skies for logistic, communication, casualty evacuation and supply support.