Thursday, June 13, 2024

Indian Army Grounds ALH Dhruv Fleet For Safety Checks Following Crash While HAL Pitches Chopper To Philipines

By Staff Correspondent

The Indian Army has grounded its entire fleet of Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALH) for a comprehensive safety check after a crash-landing in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday. The decision comes after pilots reported a technical fault to air traffic control (ATC), resulting in a precautionary landing that killed an army aviation technician and injured the pilot and co-pilot.

This marks the second time in less than two months that the army has grounded its ALH fleet, following the three services’ decision to ground their fleets in March for safety checks after an Indian Navy ALH experienced an unexplained power loss and ditched into the Arabian Sea.

Although the Indian Air Force (IAF) is clearing its ALHs for flying in batches after mandatory checks, the navy’s helicopters remain grounded. The three services operate roughly 300 variants of the ALH, with the army operating the most, accounting for 96 ALHs and 75 armed Rudra versions. Last year, the armed forces grounded their ALH fleets after an army Rudra helicopter crashed in Arunachal Pradesh, killing all five personnel on board.

Military aviation analysts explained that grounding a fleet temporarily in such cases is crucial to preventing recurrence. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the state-run aircraft maker that designed and produced the helicopters, conducts the safety checks.

Highly placed sources within Air Headquarters informed IADB that “the helicopters which are undergoing these checks shall be cleared for flying after completion of the same.” These sources added that “no fresh decision with regards to flying ALH in the IAF has been taken after the Army ALH crash on 4 May 23.”

The choppers have experienced problems with control rod failure, affecting power input to rotor blades, and hydraulics issues. The ALH Dhruv is a twin-engine, multi-mission helicopter in the 5.5-tonne class.

Despite the grounding, HAL is looking to tap into the chopper’s export potential. The Navratna Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) is currently in talks with the Philippines for a possible order. Four out of seven ALHs purchased from the Indian firm by Ecuador were involved in crashes, leading to the unilateral termination of the contract in 2015. Industry watchers see these recurring accidents in the domestic fleet as denting India’s image and potential of being a global defence exporter

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