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Turbomeca set to launch Ardiden

JUSTIN WASTNAGE / OXFORD

Work on turboshaft should start once joint development contract with Hindustan Aeronautics is signed

Turbomeca is likely to sign a deal this month to start development of its new light helicopter turboshaft, the Ardiden. The Snecma subsidiary is meeting with India's Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) in mid-July when a joint development agreement is expected to be signed.

The 900kW (1,200shp) engine is being developed as part of an agreement to replace the French engine manufacturer's TM333 in HAL's Dhruv, formerly the Advanced Light Helicopter.

The initial deal is likely to see 11% of development done by HAL, with three Indian engineers to be based at Turbomeca's factory at Pauin south-western France. Under the deal, HAL is also expected to have a full production capability by the end of the decade.

The TM333, which has powered the Dhruv since its first flight in 1992, is rated at 800kW, but derated to 765kW because of India's hot and high operating environment. "It was clear that we had to design a complete new engine to meet the power requirements," says Charles Claveau, director of helicopter engine programmes.

The Indian army's Shakti version of the Ardiden 1H will be rated at 1,070kW but derated to 900kW. The larger margin will enable the engine to maintain power and fuel efficiency and keep weight down. The engine has been designed with a lower turbine entry temperature to avoid the need for high-pressure turbine blade cooling.

Civilian applications could be worth more than the initial deal, says Christian Hamel, Turbomeca's director of commercial strategy, aero engines.

Development work is continuing on the Ardiden 1A, designed to power the Eurocopter EC155HP+, and the Ardiden 2K for the Bell/Agusta Aerospace AB139. Turbomeca is in "advanced negotiations" with both manufacturers.

With maximum take-off weights rising, Turbomeca sees a powerplant gap for "tomorrow's medium twin" helicopters, weighing 5,000-6,000kg (11,000-13,250lb). The engine will slot between the company's 485-740kW Arriel and 1,240-1,565kW Makila.

Claveau says that the engine, likely to be priced at around $500,000, will be 40% cheaper than other engines in the 900kW category, which include the Honeywell/Rolls-Royce LHTEC CTS800 and the MTU/Turbomeca/R-R MTR390. Claveau believes customers will be prepared to accept the engine's weight penalty in exchange for a cheaper engine and longer range.

The first run of a completed Ardiden on a test stand is expected in early 2004, with flight-testing beginning by the end of the same year. Turbomeca is aiming for certification by the end of 2005 and entry into service by 2006.

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