Naval versions of India’s ‘Dhruv’ Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) will get folding rotors to accommodate the chopper in tight spaces on board Indian ships.
Work on this modification has been done at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bangalore to make the rotors foldable which will increase the versatility of the helicopter. The Naval ALH Dhruv is currently used as search and rescue (SAR) helicopter which means it has to land on ships’ helicopter platforms, aircraft carriers and be stowed away in narrow spaces.
While the Indian Navy was happy with versatility of the 5.5 helicopter, a problem with the Dhruv was that its rotors did not fold to be fitted on smaller decks of offshore patrol vessels or even frigates of the class of INS Talwar.
The problem was raised by the Indian Navy about six months ago. A source in HAL said, “the problem has been sorted out. HAL representatives visited the naval installation in Vizag and demonstrated these changes that have been made about the foldability of the rotors.”
A navy source says that more than a dozen ALH have been asked to make the rotors foldable and are awaiting delivery. The problem of the Dhruv rotor is that two of its rotors did not fold the way the Indian Navy’s older helicopters such as the Chetaks or Sea Kings did on deck.
But now HAL has cracked the problem. Two of the Dhruv’s rotors fold into the body of the aircraft, while one remains straight outward. So the Indian navy also is changing the hangar designs and making them longer of new vessels like the INS Sumitra class of OPVs.
The first squadron of the ALH Dhruv had been commission in 2013 primarily for SAR role. However, with the folding blades issues resolved, the ALH looks set for an expanded role within the navy.
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