India is set to embark on a Rs 10,000 crore project to design and develop an indigenous medium lift helicopter that will replace all imports in that class for the armed forces. Given the scale of investments needed – this would be the largest helicopter design attempted by India – cabinet approvals will be needed for the project, with sources saying that work has commenced on the process.
The Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) plan will involved a tough development program, that will include multiple destruction tests to prove the sturdiness of the design before it can be certified for military use.
Sources said that the requirement of the armed forces in the coming years for a helicopter of this type is being pegged at over 550 units, with potential exports also being looked at by Hindustan Aeronautics LimitedNSE -1.99 % (HAL). The state owned company has several running helicopter programs – from the Advanced Light Helicopter that is in active service to the Light Combat Helicopter that is being produced and the underdevelopment Light Utility Helicopter.
The IMRH – first released as a concept at the Aero India show in 2017 – will essentially be designed to replace the large fleet of Mi-8/17 Russian origin helicopters that are currently the backbone of India’s transport chopper fleet.
While the concept was unveiled, work to design the chopper and build prototypes for testing has not commenced as financial approvals are needed for the next stage. Sources said that the ?10,000 crore plan is being placed for approvals and once funds are allocated, the first helicopter could make it to the skies for testing within two years.
“We now have proven technology when it comes to helicopter design. This would be a larger chopper but the design concepts and experience is in place to take it forward,” officials aware of the project told ET.
The first full scale mock up of the IMRH that was unveiled by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar showed a 12 ton class chopper with a seating capacity of 24 with roles varying from tactical troop transport, off shore operations, VVIP transport and a special capability to operate at high altitude. The twin-engine chopper is to have a dedicated Naval variant as well.
HAL has made it clear that the chopper is being designed to replace the Mi-17 class of helicopters not only in India but for the global market as well, saying that the Russian choppers are operational in over 40 air forces around the world that will need replacements soon.