Hindustan Aeronautics is promoting its helicopters to prospective international customers in Paris. HAL hopes to secure more orders from South America, Africa and Asia in the coming years as part of its plan to develop an export market for its products.
The company produces three helicopters - the indigenously designed Dhruv advanced light helicopter, the Chetak light utility helicopter that is licence-produced from the Aerospatiale Alouette and Cheetah light observation helicopter that is licence-produced from the Aerospatiale Lama.
These were developed for the Indian armed forces and mainly used in the country, with only one Dhruv sold to Israel and two to Nepal's army aviation wing.
A year ago, however, the company's hopes of having an export market received a major boost after Ecuador ordered seven Dhruvs. But while the helicopter is generally priced lower than those of its competitors, HAL has to contend with worries about poor after-sales support.
In response, it has stepped up marketing efforts to secure more orders, and plans to set up a maintenance and marketing office in South America. Company officials say that HAL is pursuing sales in the South American states of Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela, as well as in Namibia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey.
The company's new chairman and managing director, Ashok Nayak, who took over on 1 April, has made exports on of his key goals and says that HAL's growing presence in South America is likely to result in more orders.
"We have already delivered the five Dhruv helicopters ordered by Ecuador. Our pilots are training the Ecuadorian air force. We have posted 15 HAL maintenance personnel in Ecuador for back-up support, along with a substantial inventory of spares. We are steadily gaining experience in supporting the operations of Dhruv in South America. That is bound to pay off soon," he says.
The company has manufactured nearly 350 Chetaks and 250 Cheetahs since it began to licence-produce them in the 1970s, and the Indian army and air force primarily use these. A few are also operated in the country's civil sector.
Deliveries of the Dhruv began in India in 2002 and almost 80 have now entered service with the Indian air force, army, navy and coastguard. It is projected that HAL will manufacture up to 40 units annually for the services.
Two HAL-Turbomeca Shakti turboshaft engines power the 5.5t Dhruv, which has a range of 660km (355nm), and a service ceiling of 14,800ft (4,500m).
The military version of the utility helicopter can be modified for anti-submarine and light attack missions. HAL is also promoting a civilian version, which can be used for VIP transport, search and rescue, disaster relief, offshore and maritime, policing and air-ambulance roles.
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Source: Flight Daily News