M A I N   N E W S

Dhruv heads for virgin territory
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Sarsawa, November 4
With a new engine and a weapons pack, the indigenous Dhruv advance light helicopter is set to attain new heights.

The IAF’s first helicopter unit to induct the Dhruv will shortly commence regular operations to Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.

According to Air Force officers, the 117 Helicopter Unit, which has recently converted to the Dhruv, will start flying to Siachen within four months.

The unit, christened Himalayan Dragons, is carrying out extensive training to make its air crew fully operational on the twin-engine Dhruvs.

The squadron is also getting four more helicopters to add to its strength.

Dhruv’s manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is also going in for a new engine, which will improve its performance in high altitude.

Christened Shakti, it will be between 12 and 15 per cent more powerful than the existing TM-333 engine and increase its pay load capability by around 300 kg.

The new engine has been developed in collaboration with France, where it has undergone tests.

Trials in India are scheduled for December or January and if all goes well, production is expected to begin next year.

The performance of Dhruv in high altitude is claimed to be good for its size and weight, but there have been problems at an altitude of 7 km, about as high as Mount Everest.

While Dhruv helicopters, of which about 66 are in service in the armed forces, are unarmed, the armed versions are ready and delivery is scheduled to begin next year.

The IAF and the Army are going in for armed versions, which will boost capability of rotor-wing components.

The Navy, according to sources, is yet to put forth its requirements for the armed Dhruv.

The Defence Ministry accepted the requirement for an additional 39 such choppers for the Army last month, the orders for which would be placed on the HAL shortly.

The Army has three squadrons of Dhruvs.

Dhruv is also being bought by Chile in a deal which is estimated to be around Rs 300 crore.



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