An official of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) said that India is likely to have its own medium-lift helicopter in the next 8 to 10 years. This will replace the Russian Mi-17s, which will start to be phased out by 2028.
Abdul Rashid Tajar, Chief Manager (Design) Aerodynamics at HAL, told The Indian Express on the sidelines of Aero India 2023 that the preliminary design of the future 13-tonne Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) has already been frozen and that the detailed design of the helicopter will start soon.
The Deck-Based Multi-Role Helicopter will be a naval version of the helicopter.
“We are waiting for the money… for the Cabinet Committee on Security to say yes. Once the CCS gives its approval, the prototype will be ready to fly for the first time within four years. “We expect to get testing certification within the next four years,” said Tajar.
“The helicopters should be ready to join the IAF when the Mi-17s are taken out of service in eight years,” he said.
When the Russian Mi-17s and then the Mi-17 V5s are no longer used, these medium-lift helicopters will take their place in the IAF’s fleet of transport helicopters. The IAF has about 250 Mi-17 helicopters, and each one can carry more than 30 soldiers and other things.
The IMRH will be able to help with operations like air assault, air transport, combat logistics, combat search and rescue, and evacuation of wounded soldiers. At sea level, it will be able to carry up to 4,500 kg of load.
Why it’s a workhorse
HAL is sure that when the IAF starts getting rid of its Russian Mi-17 workhorses in 8 years, it will be ready to start making its own medium-lift helicopters. These will be important for air assault, air transport, combat logistics, combat search and rescue, and evacuation operations.
The French company Safran Helicopter Engines and the Indian company HAL will work together to make the engine for the helicopter. During Aero India, both companies signed an agreement to work together to design, develop, make, and support helicopter engines for the rest of their lives.
Tajar said that each helicopter is likely to cost more than Rs 300 crore, and that HAL is planning to order at least 500 of them.
When asked about export opportunities, the official said that HAL will look into the possibility of selling the helicopter to friendly countries, such as those in Latin America that need them.
He said that the Russian Mi-17, the European NH90, and the American S-92, which are all medium-sized helicopters used by major armies, are about 20 to 30 years old. He said that the IMRH will have modern technology and state-of-the-art equipment, and that it will be a good choice for countries that want helicopters in this category.
Officials said that while the project waits for the CCS to approve it, HAL is looking into other ways to pay for the development of the helicopters, such as putting some of its own money towards it.