The Army, which is facing a huge shortage of light utility helicopters with the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, will receive the first batch of six indigenous Light Utility helicopter (LUH) by the end of 2022, a defence source said. The LUH was designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
In a separate development, Lt. Gen. Ajay Kumar Suri took over as the Director General (DG) and Colonel Commandant of the Army Aviation on Monday. “The acceptance in principle was received two months back. The Army will receive the first batch of six LUHs by December 2022,” the source stated. The LUH is meant to replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters along with the Russian Ka-226T helicopters.
At Aero India in Bengaluru in February, the Army variant of the LUH received its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC).
Since November 2019, Lt. Gen. Suri, then as a Major General, was the Additional Director General and officiating as the DG, Army Aviation. He was commissioned into the Army in June 1985 as an artillery officer and was awarded wings to fly a combat helicopter in June 1990 and transferred to the permanent cadre of the Army Aviation in February 1999. He is the 5th Director General and 13th Colonel Commandant of the Army Aviation Corps.
Lt. Gen. Suri has over 6000 hours of total service flying. He has flown all types of helicopters in the Army’s fleet. He also served as Air Operations officer at the United Nations peace keeping mission in Sierra Leone.
The LUH is a 3-ton class helicopter with glass cockpit for reconnaissance and surveillance roles and as a light transport helicopter. It has been extensively test-flown at various geographic conditions, including high altitude.
Following the IOC, HAL has moved to the next phase of integrating and flight-testing of mission and role equipment on the LUH. There is a tentative order of 200 LUH from the Army and the Air Force.