With India’s first indigenous dedicated attack helicopter Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) reaching the induction phase, all eyes are on the development of medium lift category Indian Multirole Helicopter (IMRH) to replace the fleets of Air Force’s workhorse Mi-17 and other helicopters with the Indian armed forces which will start phasing out over the coming decade.
The state-owned aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has over the last two decades rolled out three indigenously designed and developed helicopters in light category — below 10 ton weight. These include 5 tonne class Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, its weaponised version ALH Rudra, the LCH. It has also developed a 3 tonne class Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), primarily developed as a replacement for the French origin legacy helicopter Chetak and Cheetah. After successful indigenous development of the 3 tonne and 5 tonne helicopters, the next logical step is a made-in-India medium lift helicopter in the 13 tonne category — IMRH.
On March 11 this year, the Ministry of Defence identified 18 major strategic platforms for industry-led design and development in the country. In line with the announcement in the Union Budget 2022-23 that allocated 25 per cent of the defence research and development budget for industry-led effort, these 18 critical platforms have been identified for research and development under various routes. The list includes the IMRH under the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) model. The private industries will under this route be encouraged to take up design and development of the platform collaboration with various government organisations. The IMRH project is slated to be executed by the HAL in collaboration with private players, pending sanction from the government.
Speaking on the occasion to mark 60 years of service of Chetak helicopters on April 2, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stressed on the need to design and develop the IMRH which, he said, is a significant requirement for the armed forces and has a huge market potential. He also made an appeal to fast-track the design and development of helicopter technology in the country, terming it as one of the dual-use technologies. The Defence Minister said this will not only prove to be a key strategic asset in the defence sector, but will make India a dominant force in the global helicopter market. “We need to make efforts to strengthen India’s claim in the rotary wing domain. The era is changing. I am sure that in the times to come we will be more bright, strong and completely self-reliant,” he said.
Senior defence officials told The Indian Express the Defence Minister giving the target to Indian entities to develop helicopters that will compete globally has tactical, economic and diplomatic connotations for the coming years.
The defence officials said the Indian Air Force (IAF) currently operates a fleet of over 220 medium lift helicopters Mi-17 and its variants Mi-17IV and Mi-17V5, primarily used for utility and troop transport purposes. These are the IAF’s mainstay medium lift helicopters. With the estimated requirement going up to 250 around 2028 and with Mi-17 fleets starting their phasing out, a large requirement will open up for the IAF for medium lift helicopters, the officials said.
#WATCH | The first indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) inducted into Indian Air Force at Jodhpur, in the presence of Defence minister Rajnath Singh and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari pic.twitter.com/sh3fqkTprg
— ANI (@ANI) October 3, 2022
The Indian Army on the other hand does not currently operate any medium lift helicopter and is dependent on the IAF for this aspect. However, sources said the Indian Army has a projected requirement of over 150 units of what is being called tactical battlefield support helicopters. While there is no timeline available for this projected requirement, the officials said that IMRH would be a fit for this requirement considering its proposed features. The Indian Navy operates close to 60 helicopters like Kamov and Seaking and the newly inducted MH-60R in medium lift. The proposed requirement over the next few years is close to 120. The officials expect that a large share of this requirement would be fulfilled by indigenously developed medium lift IMRH.
The HAL has already made a lot of progress on the designing front for the IMRH based on the requirements of the armed forces. A detailed 3D model of the helicopter has been prepared and wind tunnel testing on a model is underway. Sources said the IMRH will be rolled out in both unarmed and armed versions for the defence forces and will be able to carry 24 to 36 troops depending on the configuration. The IMRH will in the unarmed variant perform functions like troop movement, logistic support, casualty evacuation, electronic warfare platform, airborne fire-fighting VIP and VVIP transport, disaster relief and search and rescue. In the armed version, it would be able to perform special heliborne strikes, commando or special forces tasks, counter insurgency counter terrorism (CI-CT) operations, urban warfare if equipped with precision guided munitions and combat fire support to ground. It will have a maximum take-off weight of around 13 tonnes and a payload capacity of 4 tonnes. Thee officials said the programme will take seven to eight years to complete after getting the sanction from the government.
Source: india Express