Seeking To End Spat, HAL Chief Promises Navy-Worthy Dhruv

A week after a Livefist interview sparked an acrimonious war of words between the Indian naval aviation community and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), chairman of the state-owned military broke his silence.

Taking questions in an exclusive interview to Livefist, R. Madhavan said, “This is something that shouldn’t have happened, and we didn’t like it. Sometimes when they hit below the belt, some of our people have retorted. We hope that it comes to a stop now.”

The ‘below the belt’ comments Madhavan refers to are likely former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash’s description of HAL as ‘lethargic, deadbeat’ in his interview to Livefist linked above. The spat hinges around HAL’s insistence that the Indian Navy’s proposed acquisition of 111 shipborne utility helicopters from a foreign vendor should be set aside in favour of HAL’s Dhruv helicopter. Livefist has published Part 1 of the interview with the HAL chairman, which includes his comments on the current controversy, as well as an official update on the company’s other rotorcraft programs.

Here’s Part 1 in full:

Asked specifically about concerns that the Dhruv hasn’t met specific Indian Navy requirements for nearly two decades, compelling the quest for foreign helicopters in the shipborne utility role, the HAL chairman made what could be construed as a serious allegation against the Indian Navy, saying, “The Dhruv needs a couple of changes that we are working on, which includes blade-folding and boom-folding, which will bring it to the dimensions required by the navy. The Indian Navy is looking to acquire its NUH through the Strategic Partnership route targeting foreign aircraft, particularly one aircraft. The NUH RFQ/RFI was designed for that. If the Dhruv can be modified to meet requirements, then why not an indigenous product?

It is unclear which ‘aircraft’ the HAL chairman is referring to. As things stand, the NUH program is a toss-up between Airbus Helicopters H135M/Panther and Sikorsky S-76D. Bids by both companies, along with a bid from Kamov for a naval version of the Ka-226T were submitted last year. Madhavan’s comments also come despite these details put out by key Indian Navy officials involved with the origins of the NUH program, including affidavits declaring that the Dhruv could not meet naval requirements.

While the Indian Navy hasn’t officially reacted to the current controversy, the naval aviation community is of the view that HAL elbowing itself into the NUH program now is a deflection from past performance, promises and priorities. Livefist understands that HAL will be reaching out to naval aviation veterans, including Admiral Arun Prakash, to apprise them of progress and answer their concerns.

Providing the first concrete timeline to HAL’s promise on the Dhruv, Madhavan has told Livefist, “I can categorically say that the Dhruv will meet all requirements of the navy. Within 24-36 months from the time an order is placed, we will develop and deliver the product. Our rate of production is also far higher. So project time will be much shorter than what the navy has envisaged in its request for quotation.”

Away from the Dhruv story, the HAL chairman also told Livefist¬†that the company has begun production of five Light Combat Helicopters in anticipation of a near-certain initial order for 15 airframes by the end of this year. Livefist‘s Shiv Aroor took a backseat flight in an LCH prototype in February last year. Full video report:

In addition, HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) heads into its final high altitude trials for the Army this August, with certification to be completed this year and possible entry into service thereafter. Livefist had a detailed report on LUH trials recently.

Meanwhile, the HAL-Kamov joint venture to produce the Ka-226T light utility helicopter near Bengaluru continues to drift, with the HAL chairman calling the project ‘overdue’ and delayed over MoD-level negotiations on the level of indigenous content.

The full Part 1 of our interview with HAL’s chairman is higher up on this page, but do head over to our recently energised YouTube channel and subscribe.

5 thoughts on “Seeking To End Spat, HAL Chief Promises Navy-Worthy Dhruv”

  1. This interview actually highlights the issue. This man is basically a bureaucratic babu. None of the queries the pilot raised have been answered. We need this HAL to change. And change will start with leaders bought from global aeronautical gaints. If we are proud of Indians heading google and MS, why can’t we get talent from boeing and general dynamics?

  2. I wanted to point out an error in the article. It quotes “Sikorsky S-72” as a participant. The model that is participating is actually S-76D.

    Upon hearing the interview, I’m convinced HAL chairman is not really addressing the concerns raised. The quality control part is exceptionally bad. If the parts in the document and product differ, it is a serious concern. After Ecuador fiasco, they have not really managed to export any Dhuruvs. The naval aviation team is right to be concerned.

    From reading, Commander Yasodhan Marathe’s inputs. I can see a navy helicopter is very different from a helicopter meant to operate in high altitude. I would like for the navy to get a new type rather than HAL Dhuruv.

    I was reading through both RFIs for NUH and NMRH along with a coast gaurd requirment for 16 medium lift helicopters. It seems as if NUH and Coast guard had similar requirements when they were conceived as transport helicopters with only range and passenger load being different. But NUH is kinda taking over some responsibility of NMRH like anti-submarine capability. It makes sense to buy a common airframe and customise it for our requirements. The indegenisation percentage can also be increased from 40% demanded right now for 123 air-frames to somewhere above 80%. It will be similar to replicating the success of Cheetah and chetal helicopters.

  3. Well, it seems NUH has become a hot potato. It is not gonna go any further till this tiff dies down. There are 3 issues here one is dhuruv not meeting naval requirements penned 35 years ago, second HAL not being allowed to participate and third Indian navy desperately needs helicopters yesterday so much so that US navy is diverting it’s MH 60 airframes for India.

    I have an idea. Let nuh be as it is. Focus on 123 naval multi role helicopter(nmrh) and do the SP thing there first. This way Indian navy gets a production line for its immediate needs. I’m sure nmrh being a bigger helicopter can do nuh role as well for the time being. In the mean time, there is an order for 16 ALH from navy, if HAL can demonstrate blade and boom folding on 2 of them. They could be included in nuh competition. This approach seems fair to both parties.

    If HAL fails, the impact gets mitigated my timely induction of nmrh. If negotiations for nuh drag out further, navy can always order more nmrh from production line. The long term benefit of this apprach is that with a new competitor to HAL. The requirement to replace mi17 in next decade will be a level field between 2 domestic designs. Let’s see how this pans out.

  4. ALH has done Extremely well in its hot and high performance role.it was developed with extensive input by MBB.
    No assurance it will do well in marine.
    Let NUH go ahead with SP model.
    Let HAL set up a marine helicopter team, master the relevant technologies.
    It would also help if HAL changes its HR policies to attract global talent.
    From the letters of Naval aviators, product support esp root cause analysis of failures is non existent.
    The South American experience showed the same thing.
    Let HAL focus on ALH, LUH, LCH.
    Let the new IMRH be based on new helicopter technologies being tested by Boeing & Bell. Otherwise there is no point in having helicopter in 2030 based on technology used in Mi-4.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top