HAL eyes India to hardsell Dhruv copters

Friday, 17 August 2007, 07:00 Hrs
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Bangalore: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the state-run defence behemoth, is eyeing the domestic market to sell its flagship product Dhruv, the advanced light helicopter (ALH), powered by the indigenously designed and developed Shakti aero engines.

"Being a niche market, prospects of selling Dhruv in competitive geographies outside the US and Russia are limited, as the demand or requirement of other countries vary between 10-20 copters at any given time," HAL chairman and managing director Ashok K. Baweja told reporters at a function here Thursday.

"Whereas in the subcontinent, we find a growing demand for the military and civilian variants of the ALH, as evident from the continued interest shown by the Indian armed forces and the Indian Coast Guard and enquiries from customers in the private and public sectors," he said.

Though Baweja declined to specify the number of orders expected, he estimated the market potential for the higher powered Dhruv would be about 300 copters in the next five years, with the armed forces and the coast guard accounting for the lion's share of 200-250 and the remaining from utility providers and government organisations.

The average price of Dhruv is 350 million ($8.5 million) in the Indian market and $1-1.5 million less than any other copter's price in its class (5.5-5.8 tonnes) in the international market.

"Over the last four years since the three services and the coast guard began inducting Dhruv in 2004, 67 aircraft have been delivered so far and eight more are in the pipeline.

"We have also sold five-six civil variants to customers like ONGC and private firms. There is demand for at least 12 machines from hospitals and air-ambulance providers," Baweja said after a flight demonstration of the two Dhruv copters with prototype Shakti engines.

By equipping the military and utility variants of Dhruv with high-powered Shakti engines for operations in high altitudes and weaponisation, HAL is upbeat on getting fresh orders from the army, air force and the coast guard once the copters are certified by the Cemelac and the Director General of Civil Aviation. The initial orders are expected to be about 100-150 from the services.

"After a series of trials over next 12 months, we hope to go into full production to begin delivering the new version of Dhruv from mid-2009. By then, the indigenisation content in the engines will be increased from 18-19 percent currently to 30 percent and will be manufactured in our 50:50 joint venture with the French Turbomeca here," Baweja noted.

The new engines are also expected to address the problem of excessive vibrations in the existing Dhruv fleet, as pointed out by the army and the air force. Volume production and availability of spares will also help HAL to service its customers efficiently in downtime.

"For improving the serviceability ratio to our primary customers, we have set up a dedicated MRO (maintenance, repair and overhauling) facility at 2 billion for servicing the copters and extending ground support with adequate spares and handling equipment," Baweja said.
Source: IANS
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