India has leased one indigenously produced Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter to a foreign customer and is targeting certain overseas markets, where it hopes to win export contracts for the aircraft.
The Dhruv costs about $9 million per helicopter, said an official with manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), but it will be offered at 15 percent discounted rates for orders of more than six helicopters.
Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has leased one Dhruv on concessional terms, said the HAL official, who declined to reveal the exact price of the lease deal.
New Delhi has asked Israel not to use the Dhruv for combat purposes against Arab countries, with whom India has “excellent relations,” an Indian Defence Ministry official said.
Argentina, Brazil, Chile and other Latin American countries are being targeted as potential export customers for the Dhruv, the HAL official said. Two Dhruvs were sold to Nepal last year, he added, and there have been queries from Asia-Pacific and West Asian countries.
The Dhruv is equipped with IAI cockpits and avionics. Under a $33 million contract signed in 2004, IAI will supply the entire avionics package for Dhruv deliveries for both domestic and export markets.
Under the contract, the advanced avionics will be supplied by IAI for 100 helicopters initially. The major systems include an electronic warfare package, a day-and-night vision system, head-up display and other communication systems.
IAI also won the international marketing rights for export of ALH from HAL against stiff competition from Eurocopter of France and Elbit of Israel. Under the arrangement, IAI will use the ALH platform and mount it with Israeli avionics and other systems to tailor requirements for international clients.
The 5-metric-ton Dhruv is in the same helicopter class as the Mitsubishi MH 2000, Dauphin, EC-155, Super Lynx, S-76, Bell 412, AB 139 and PZL W-3A, the HAL official said. The Dhruv is powered by two TM 333-2B2 engines built by Turbomeca, France.
Conceived in 1970, India’s Advanced Light Helicopter program ran into trouble in 1998 after the United States imposed sanctions on India. The sanctions barred the original engine supplier — Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company (LHTEC), Phoenix — from supplying its CTS-800 engines. The first Advanced Light Helicopter prototype flew in 1992, a naval version in 1995, and an Army version in 2000.