NEW DELHI — While awaiting procurement of light helicopters from the overseas market, the Indian Army will buy an improved version of its existing Cheetah helicopters to help ferry troops at higher altitudes.
An agreement was signed between the Indian Defence Ministry and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) Feb. 22 to acquire 20 Cheetal helicopters. Work on Cheetal began after it was found in 2009 that India’s homemade Advanced Light Helicopter was unable to fly, as intended, at heights above 20,000 feet. The Cheetal can fly up to a height of 25,000 feet, meeting the Army’s logistical needs.
Meanwhile, the procurement of 197 light helicopters is pending with the Defence Ministry after a rebid of a 2008 tender. Eurocopter of France and Kamov of Russia are competing.
“Cheetal is the re-engined variant of the proven Cheetah helicopter being manufactured by HAL for over four decades.” the HAL statement says. “The Cheetal helicopter is equipped with a Turbomeca TM 333-2M2 free turbine turbo shaft engine, which is more fuel efficient and provides higher payload capability of 90 kilograms at an altitude of 6 kilometers. The Cheetal helicopter can operate up to 7 kilometers altitude and has a range of 640 kilometers with an endurance of 3.50 hours.”
The Cheetal is fitted with a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system for engine control and an electronic backup control box, which automatically takes over engine control in the event of FADEC failure.