It was praised as a superior aircraft in its class, at the recent Aero India 2005 show, but that superiority of the advanced light helicopter (ALH) is yet to translate into firm orders for public sector aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The five-tonne class helicopter, which HAL is pitching as a multi-role aircraft capable of both military and civil applications, is yet to find countries or companies willing to buy in large enough numbers.
On Thursday, HAL put up a display of the ALH for visiting diplomats from eight different Latin American countries, “to promote our product,” a senior HAL official said.
“No orders have come in yet... they wished to see the performance of the aircraft, and it was an opportunity for us to demonstrate its superiority,” the official said. Last year, HAL and its marketing partner for the ALH, Israel Aircraft Industries, made a “comprehensive presentation” on the ALH to the Chilean armed forces.
“That was our first big pitch in Latin America... they are still evaluating the aircraft,” he said.
HAL is in competition with other larger firms to supply Chile with helicopters with capabilities of the ALH, whose five variants include a military helicopter and an ambulance. Competitors include US-based Bell Helicopters. The chief of Chile’s air force was also present at the Aero India show.
On Thursday, ambassadors from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay, and the counsellor, Embassy of Guyana saw the flight demonstration of the ALH, an HAL release said. HAL has sold two ALH’s to Nepal, and is in the process of finalising the sale of a third, to Israel.
The twin engine aircraft is currently powered by an engine supplied by Tourbomeca, a company of the Snecma Group, a propulsion systems and equipment-maker based in France. But it will be the first helicopter to be driven by a more powerful engine, the Ardiden, which Tourbomeca and HAL are currently co-developing, HAL officials said.