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Hindustan Advanced Light Helicopter

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Title: Hindustan Advanced Light Helicopter  
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Hindustan Advanced Light Helicopter

Dhruv helicopter of the Indian Air Force Sarang Helicopter Display Team in 2008.
Role Multirole helicopter
National origin India
Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
First flight 20 August 1992[1]
Introduction March 2002[2]
Status Active
Primary users Indian Army
Indian Air Force
Indian Navy
Ecuadorian Air Force
Number built 140+ through August 2013[3]
Unit cost
approx. INR400 million ()[4]
Developed into HAL Light Combat Helicopter
HAL Rudra

The HAL Dhruv (Sanskrit: ध्रुव, "Polaris") is a utility helicopter developed and manufactured by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Dhruv was first announced in November 1984. The ALH was designed with assistance from MBB in Germany. The Dhruv first flew in 1992; but development was prolonged due to multiple factors: the Indian Army's requirement alterations, budget restrictions, and sanctions placed on India following the 1998 Pokhran-II Indian nuclear testing.

The Dhruv entered into service in 2002. Dhruv is designed to meet the requirement of both military and civil operators. It is being supplied to the Indian Armed Forces along with a variant for civilian/commercial use. The helicopter was first exported to Nepal and Israel.[5] It is on order by several other countries for both military and commercial uses.

Military versions in production are for transport, utility, reconnaissance and medical evacuation roles. Based on the Dhruv platform, the HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) attack helicopter, and HAL Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) a utility and observation helicopter are being developed. As of August 2013, more than 140 HAL Dhruv have been produced for different customers.



The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) for an indigenous 5-ton multirole helicopter was initiated in May 1979 by the Indian Air Force and Navy.[6] HAL were given a contract by the Indian government in 1984 to develop the helicopter;[6][7] Germany's Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) were contracted in July 1984 to act as a design consultant and collaborative partner for the programme.[8][9] Although originally scheduled to fly in 1989, the first prototype ALH (Z-3182) made its maiden flight on 20 August 1992 at Bangalore with then-Indian Vice President K. R. Narayanan in attendance.[10] This was followed by a second prototype (Z-3183) on 18 April 1993, an Army/Air Force version (Z-3268) and a navalised prototype (IN.901) with Allied Signal CTS800 engines and a retractable tricycle undercarriage.[11] Although the first prototype flew in August 1992, problems arose due to changing demands from the military and a significant funding shortfall in the wake of the 1991 India economic crisis.[6]

Naval testing on board the INS Viraat and other ships started in March 1998, and around the same time a weight-reduction programme was initiated.[12] However, further delays in development were caused when sanctions upon India were implemented following several Indian nuclear tests in 1998 and the continued refusal to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the intended engine for the helicopter, the LHTEC T800, was embargoed.[12][13] The Turbomeca TM 333-2B2 turboshaft engine was selected as a replacement; in addition Turbomeca agreed to develop a more powerful engine with HAL, originally known as the Ardiden.[14] Turbomeca also assisted in the development of the helicopter, stress analysis and studies of rotor dynamics were conducted in France.[15] The first flight of a Dhruv with the new engine, renamed the Shakti, took place on 16 August 2007.[16][17]

Further development

The HAL Rudra, earlier known as Dhruv-WSI (Weapons Systems Integrated), is an attack variant for the Indian Army.[18] Development was sanctioned in December 1998,[19] the prototype first flew on 16 August 2007; it is to be armed with both anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and a 20-mm turret-mounted cannon.[20] The Dhruv-WSI is to be capable of conducting combat air support (CAS) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) roles as well.[21] In addition to the Dhruv-WSI, HAL is also developing the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) based on the Dhruv for the Indian Armed Forces. It is fitted with stub wings for carrying up to eight anti-armour missiles, four air-to-air missiles, or four pods loaded with either 70mm or 68mm rockets. The LCH will also have FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared), a CCD (Charge Coupled Device) camera, and a target acquisition system with laser rangefinder and thermal vision.[22]

In 2005, following a crash landing of a Dhruv, the entire fleet was grounded when it was discovered to have been caused by excessive vibration in the area of the tail rotor. Following a redesign of the tail rotor, which incorporated new materials in addition to changes in design methodology, the Dhruv undertook recertification and returned to service shortly after March 2006.[23][24] In April 2007, a report published by the Indian Committee of Defence noted the Dhruv as one of four "focus areas" identified as having high export potential.[25] In January 2011, HAL and partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced that they were jointly developing the Dhruv to operate as an unmanned maritime helicopter, stating customer interest in such a feature.[26]

The first five production Dhruv Mk III, powered by the more powerful Shakti engine, were delivered to the Leh-based 205 Aviation Squadron on 7 February 2011 during a ceremony at HAL's Helicopter Division.[27] In July 2011, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation certified a Dhruv simulator developed by HAL and Canadian developer CAE Inc; the simulator is easily modifiable to simulate different variants of the Dhruv and other helicopters such as the Eurocopter Dauphin.[28] India’s Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory (DEBEL) has been developing an oxygen life-support system to improve helicopter's high-altitude performance, as of August 2010 the IAF has ordered development of this system for the Dhruv.[29]

In February 2012, HAL reported that the Indian Army had placed 159 orders for the Dhruv; this is in excess of 100 had been produced to date.[30]


The HAL Dhruv is of conventional design; about 29 percent of its empty weight (constituting 60 percent of the airframe's surface area) is composite materials.[31] It has been reported that the unique carbon fibre composite developed by HAL reduced the helicopter's weight by 50%.[32] The high tail boom allows easy access to the rear doors. The twin 1000 shp Turbomeca TM333-2B turboshafts are mounted above the cabin and drive a four-blade composite main rotor. The main rotor can be manually folded; the blades are mounted between carbon-fibre-reinforced plates, the rotor head is constructed from fibre elastomers.[8] In February 2004, US helicopter company Lord Corporation were awarded a contract to develop an active vibration control system (AVCS), which monitors onboard conditions and cancels out fuselage vibrations.[33]

The cockpit section of the fuselage is of Kevlar and carbon-fibre construction; it is also fitted with crumple zones and crashworthy seats. The aircraft is equipped with a SFIM Inc four-axis automatic flight control system. Avionics systems include a HF/UHF communications radio, IFF recognition, Doppler navigation, and a radio altimeter; a weather radar and the Omega navigation system were options for the naval variant.[34] IAI has also developed targeting systems and an electronic warfare suite for the Dhruv, as well as avionics for day-and-night flight observation.[26] HAL's claim that the Dhruv is indigenous has been challenged by Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who reported that as of August 2010 the helicopter was: "...against the envisaged indigenisation level of 50% (by 2008), 90% of the value of material used in each ALH is still imported from foreign suppliers".[35]

In September 2010, it was reported that the Dhruv's Integrated Dynamic System (IDS), which combines several key rotor control functions into a single module carrying the engine's power to the rotors,[8] was suffering from excessive wearing and was necessitating frequent replacement; as a consequence the cruising speed had been restricted to 250 km/h and high-altitude performance was lessened as well.[36] HAL contracted Italian aerospace firm Avio for consultancy purposes, Avio replicated production of the IDS in Italy in order to isolate the problem; the early testing of the Dhruv has been criticised as "rushed".[36] In June 2011 HAL has reported that the issue was now resolved and not present in the Dhruv Mk III, a number of alterations both to the design and production had been made to improve the IDS; a programme of retrofitting the Mk I and Mk II was also completed by June 2011.[37]

The ALH Mk-III with Shakti engines has very good high altitude performance operating at altitudes over 6 km. It comes with seating for 14 fully equipped troops. DGCA has praised its crashworthy design as a few accidents have not caused any fatalities.[38]

Operational history

Indian service

Deliveries of the Dhruv commenced in January 2002, over nine years after the prototype's first flight, and nearly eighteen years after the program was initiated.[11] The Indian Coast Guard was the first service to operate the Dhruv. This was followed by the Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and the Border Security Force. 75 Dhruvs were delivered to the Indian armed forces by 2007, as of 2008 it is planned to produce 40 helicopters annually.[39] The Indian Air Force's Sarang aerobatic display team performs using 4 Dhruv helicopters.[40] In 2007, a further order for 166 helicopters were placed with HAL by the Indian Army.[41][42] India may order up to 12 ambulance variant Dhruvs, outfitted with an onboard emergence medical suite, to be used by the Armed Forces Medical Services for MEDEVAC purposes.[43]

The Dhruv is required to fly at high altitudes, a crucial requirement for the Army to operate around the Siachen Glacier and Kashmir region. In September 2007, the Dhruv Mk.3 was cleared for high-altitude flying in the Siachen Sector after six months of trials.[44][45] In October 2007, a Dhruv Mk.3 flew to an altitude of 27,500 feet (8,400 m) ASL in Siachen;[46] two years earlier a HAL Cheetal (the HAL Cheetah powered by the Shakti engine) had set a world altitude record, landing at 25,150 feet (7,670 m) on Sasar Kangi peak in Siachen. An Indian Army report in 2009 criticised the performance of the Dhruv, stating: "The ALH was not able to fly above 5,000m, though the army's requirements stipulated an ability to fly up to 6,500m"; this has been blamed on the TM333 engine, the Army had to continue relying on the older Cheetah/Cheetal helicopters to meet the shortfall.[47] The more powerful Shakti engine has since been introduced on the Dhruv Mk.3; on one test it carried 600 kg load to Sonam Post against the Army's target of 200 kg.[48] The first batch of Dhruv Mk.3's was received by the Indian Army during Aero India 2011.[49]

In October 2008, Defence Minister A. K. Antony announced that the Indian Navy will deploy the Dhruv in the utility role. The proposed anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant will not be pursued as it was deemed unsuited to the Navy's requirements. The Navy has been dissatisfied by the Dhruv's folding blade performance and its maintenance record.[50][51] The Navy has considered using the Dhruv for maritime surveillance and search and rescue roles;[52] however in 2008 a senior Navy official said: "The ALH has a long way to go before the programme matures sufficiently for it to undertake basic naval roles such as search and rescue (SAR) and communication duties."[53] In 2007, the Navy issued a request for information (RPI) to manufacturers such as HAL, Eurocopter, and Boeing for a new main helicopter for ASW and other operations;[50] HAL has considered developing a new 10–12 ton indigenous ASW helicopter.[14][54]

HAL also produces a civilian variant of the Dhruv for transport, rescue, policing, offshore operations and air-ambulance role, among others.[55] The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has placed an order for 12 Dhruv helicopters, to feature a full medical suite, including ventilators and two stretchers.[56] In April 2008, HAL chairman Ashok Baweja confirmed that India's Home Ministry had "placed an order for six ALHs".[57] The Geological Survey of India (GSI) wants one Dhruv; the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation will use the Dhruv for offshore operations. Several Indian state governments also plan to purchase for police and transportation duties.[43] In March 2011, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation released a proposed airworthiness directive asking all civilian operators of the Dhruv to temporarily ground their aircraft due to cracks that could form in the tail area, and recommended the reinforcement of affected areas.[58][59]

Four Dhruv helicopters conducted rescue operations following the 2011 Sikkim earthquake.[60] In October 2011, Jharkhand's regional government issued an urgent appeal for Mil Mi-17 helicopters, as operations of their Dhruvs had been disrupted by prolonged maintenance delays and a major crash.[61][62] In October 2011, The Telegraph reported that a spate of helicopter crashes, including the Dhruv, were caused by alleged low quality of maintenance work that had been performed by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd.[63] In February 2012, the Home Ministry reported that the Dhruv remained grounded and that other helicopters such as the Mi-17 were being wet-leased in its place; in the long term, the Dhruv fleet is to be replaced.[64]

Six Dhruvs of the army and eighteen of the air force took part in the transport and rescue operations after the 2013 North India floods. The helicopter's compact size, high agility,[65] ability to carry 10-16 people to heights of 10,000 feet, and dropping para commandos and evacuating stranded people from highly inaccessible regions was praised.[66][67][68] During the operation, it could carry more people from high-altitude helipads than the heavier Mi-17, and could land at places where a lighter civilian Bell 407 could not. The total flight time of the helicopter during Operation Rahat and Operation Surya Hope was 630 hours, of which 550 hours were dedicated to SAR missions.[69][65]

Foreign sales


The Dhruv has become the first major Indian weapons system to have secured large foreign sales. In 2004 HAL stated that it hoped to sell 120 Dhruvs over the next eight years,[70] and has been displaying the Dhruv at airshows, including Farnborough and Paris in order to market the Dhruv.[71] HAL has entered into a partnership with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to develop and promote the Dhruv, IAI has also helped develop new avionics and a glass cockpit for newer variants of the Dhruv.[72]

With a unit price at least 15% less than its rivals, Dhruv has elicited interest in many countries, mostly from Latin America, Africa, West Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific Rim nations. Air forces from around 35 countries have sent in their inquiries, along with requests for demonstrations.[4] Flight certification for Europe and North America has also been planned in order to tap the large civilian market there.[73]

South America

HAL also secured an order from the Ecuadorian Air Force (EAF) for 7 Dhruvs. HAL won the order amidst strong competition from Elbit, Eurocopter and Kazan. HAL's offer of US$50.7 million for seven helicopters was about 32% lower than the second lowest bid from Elbit.[74] 5 helicopters were delivered in February 2009, during Aero India 2009.[75] Both the Ecuadorian Army and Ecuadorian Navy have since expressed interest in the Dhruvs.[76] The Dhruv has been involved in search and rescue, transport, and MEDIVAC missions in the north of the country.[77]

Following the crash of one of the Dhruv helicopters during a ceremony in October 2009, it was reported that Ecuador considered sending their six helicopters back to HAL amid claims that the aircraft were unfit for service;[78] EAF commander Rodrigo Bohorquez stated "If it is a major problem that can't be easily remedied, we would have to return [the Dhruv]." HAL assisted in the investigation into the crash, which later found the cause to be pilot error.[79] In February 2011, it was reported that the EAF were satisfied with the Dhruv's performance and were considering further orders.[80] In July 2011, reports stemming from the Associated Press of Pakistan emerged that Ecuador had experienced significant issues with the Dhruv's maintenance, such as a "poor after sales service, expensive spares and... over-invoicing";[81][82][83] the authenticity of these reports has been challenged by HAL and the EAF.[84]

Dhruv also participated in a Chilean tender for eight to ten 5.5 tonne, twin-engined helicopter, but lost to the Bell 412,[85] there has been media accusations of unfair pressure being exercised by the US Government to favour Bell.[4][86] The Dhruv had conducted a series of evaluation flights to demonstrate criteria such as long distance flight, avionics capabilities, vertical climb and manoeuvring capabilities, and the helicopter's ability to cope with various weather conditions.[87]

HAL is negotiating with Bolivia for a potential five Dhruvs; and with Venezuela for seven.[88] In June 2008, the government of Peru ordered two air ambulance Dhruvs for use by the Peruvian health services.[89]


A civilian Dhruv was leased to the Israeli Defense Ministry in 2004; IAI has also made use of the Defense Ministry's Dhruv for marketing and public relations purposes.[90][91] Indian diplomats tried to encourage Israel to purchase the Dhruv, but were unsuccessful.[32] In July 2006, Air Force Commander of India Shashindra Pal Tyagi commented that India was ready to buy as many as 80 Mi-17 transport helicopters if Russia were to purchase a large batch of Dhruv helicopters in exchange.[92]

The first foreign orders for the Dhruv were placed by Nepal in early 2004, for 2 Dhruvs.[93] The Dhruv has also been offered to Malaysia,[94] Indonesia is also evaluating Dhruv for the Indonesian Army.[95]

In 2007, India was reported as planning to transfer several Dhruvs to Burma, prompting protests from Amnesty International, who pointed to the use of components sourced from European suppliers as a possible violation of the European Union (EU) Arms Embargo of Burma.[96] In a letter to the President of the EU Council of Ministers, Amnesty stated that it had evidence that India planned to transfer two Dhruvs with European components to Burma.[97][98][99] These reports have been denied by the Indian Government.[100]

In April 2010, the Indian Navy gifted a Dhruv to the Maldives National Defence Force for conducting search and rescue operations.[101] On 10 August 2008, HAL's chairman confirmed a deal had been finalised with Turkey to supply 3 Dhruvs for US$20 million; Turkey is planning to buy as many as 17 helicopters in medical assistance role.[88][102]


Primary military variants

The initial configuration with a conventional cockpit with mechanical gauges and Turbomeca TM 333-2B2 turboshaft engines. A total of 56 delivered to the Indian military.[103] They were first made in 2001.[104]
Similar to the Mk.1, except has the newer HAL-IAI glass cockpit. A total of 20 delivered to the Indian military.[103] They were first made in 2007.[104]
An improved version equipped with Shakti engines, new electronic warfare (EW) suite and warning systems, automatic chaff and flare dispensers, and improved vibration control system.[105] The first batch of 10 Dhruv Mk.3 were inducted into service in 2012.[106]
HAL Rudra
Also known as Dhruv-WSI (Weapons System Integrated)


Military operators

  • Mauritius Police Force[114]

Civil operators

  • Turkish health services - 3 [102]
  • Peruvian health services (2 on order)[89]

Incidents and accidents

  • In November 2005, a Dhruv a crash-landed in Andhra Pradesh, causing the entire fleet to be grounded; the subsequent probe found a fault with the helicopter's tail rotor blades, which has since been corrected.[23][24]
  • On 2 February 2007, during rehearsals prior to Aero India, a HAL Dhruv of the Sarang helicopter display team of the Indian Air Force crashed, killing co-pilot Squadron Leader Priye Sharma and wounding the pilot Wing Commander Vikas Jetley;[118] Vikas Jetley died in January 2011 after being in a coma for over 3 years. It was concluded that the accident was caused by pilot error. The helicopter team continued to perform in the air show.[119]
  • In October 2009, a Dhruv helicopter of the Ecuadorian Air Force flew into terrain while attempting to fly in formation with two other helicopters close to an air force base near Quito. Air Force General Leonardo Barreiro told reporters that the helicopter had been destroyed in the crash.[120] The remaining six aircraft were grounded during the investigation, which later concluded pilot error to be the cause.[121]
  • In February 2010, a Dhruv helicopter team of the Indian Air Force was forced to make a crash landing while rehearsing for the "Vayu Shakti" air power show. An IAF official was quoted as stating "Both pilots are safe after they had to make a controlled crash-landing due to loss of power in the chopper".[23]
  • On 21 April 2011, four army personnel were killed in a Dhruv helicopter crash in north Sikkim.[122]
  • On 19 October 2011, a Dhruv operated by India's Border Security Force (BSF) crashed in north-east India, resulting in the deaths of the three crew on board. Immediately following the crash, the remaining five Dhruvs of the CRPF were grounded.[123]
  • On 15 January 2012, a Border Security Force Dhruv crashed onto the runway at Raipur airport. The helicopter was engaged in a series of test flights when the crash occurred, there were no deaths but all five of the crew onboard were injured.[124]

Specifications (Dhruv)

Data from Indian Army,[1] Crawford,[125] HAL[126]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1 or 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 12 passengers (14 passengers with high density seating) or 4 stretchers.
  • Length: 15.87 m (52 ft 0.8 in)
  • Rotor diameter: 13.20 m (43 ft 3.7 in)
  • Height: 4.98 m (16 ft 4.06 in)
  • Disc area: 137 m² (1,472 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,502 kg (5,515 lb)
  • Useful load: 2,600 kg (5,731 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 5,500 kg (12,125 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Shakti turboshafts, 1,000 kW (1,400 shp[127])
    Alternate engine: 2 x Turbomeca TM 333-2B2 turboshaft, 746 kW (1,000 shp) each



See also

Aviation portal

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



External links

  • HAL Dhruv page
  • Dhruv – Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) @
  • WSI (Weapons Systems Integrated) Dhruv
  • Video of HAL Dhruv Advertisement
  • Digital cockpit of HAL Dhruv
  • Armed version of Dhruv
  • HAL Dhruv
  • Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) – DHRUV IAI website
  • Sarang helicopter display team performing at Aero-India
  • Video of Dhruv helicopter
  • Video of HAL Dhruv performing at Farnborough 2006
  • Video of Dhruv at Paris airshow 2007

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