Aero India 2009: HAL to hand over five Dhruvs to Ecuador - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 8 February 2009

Aero India 2009: HAL to hand over five Dhruvs to Ecuador

(photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla)

By Ajai Shukla
HAL, Bangalore

Business Standard
9th February 2009

Visitors to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL’s) high-security helicopter hangars in Bangalore nowdays confront a startling sight. Dominating the tarmac are five shiny new Dhruvs, the HAL-manufactured Advanced Light Helicopter, emblazoned with the insignia and the roundels of the Ecuadorian Air Force.

With Aero India 2009 around the corner --- India’s biggest-ever air expo, scheduled from 11th to 15th February --- HAL is readying to hand over, ahead of schedule, its first ever export order won in a competitive contract, run last year by Ecuador for seven helicopters. Not only did the Dhruv outperform rival machines from global majors like Eurocopter (the world’s biggest helicopter manufacturer), but HAL’s price of just $7 million per helicopter conclusively won it the contract.

HAL is out to make a splash. The Ecuador Air Force chief will receive five Dhruvs at a high-profile media event in Aero India 2009. The remaining two will be handed over within six months. And instead of the conventional (and cheap) way of transporting helicopters across continents --- by painstakingly dismantling them and sending them by ship --- HAL has decided to fly the Dhruvs to Ecuador in a giant Antonov-124 transport aircraft.

“Transportation in an AN-124 will merely involve removing the rotor blades and quickly reassembling them after they land in Ecuador,” explains N Seshadri, Executive Director of HAL’s Rotary Wing R&D Centre. “This is something that we in HAL are quite familiar with; the Indian Air Force Sarang team, which regularly displays helicopter aerobatics in major air shows abroad, often transports their helicopters in AN-124s.”

HAL will have to pay about Rs 3.5 crores for ferrying the Dhruvs by AN-124, but the company believes that the goodwill generated will be worth the expense. Several South American countries besides Ecuador --- Columbia and Chile amongst them --- are evaluating the Dhruv. HAL knows they are carefully watching the Ecuador contract.

HAL, therefore, has pulled out the stops to ensure that Ecuador has no problems with maintaining its Dhruv fleet. A specially selected team of ten HAL engineers is being posted in Ecuador for the two-year period when the Dhruvs will be under warranty. They will carry with them the entire requirement of tools and spares required to keep the helicopters serviceable. During these two years, the HAL engineers will train the Ecuadorian Air Force to maintain its Dhruvs.

Serviceability was a problem that brought HAL flak when the first Dhruvs were supplied to the Indian military. At that time, HAL was focusing so strongly on producing more Dhruvs, that the army and the air force had to complain that HAL was not providing adequate maintenance back-up.

“We are now very comfortable with supporting the Dhruv, wherever it is flying”, asserts Ashok Nayak, Managing Director of HAL’s Bangalore Complex, and the man who has been selected to head HAL when the current chief, Ashok Baweja retires on 31st March 09. “We are already carrying out major maintenance --- including the servicing that is done after flying 250 hours and 500 hours --- in places like Nasik, Yelahanka and Manasbal in J&K. We will reliably do that in Ecuador as well.”

The Dhruv assembly line in HAL Bangalore is already busy, fulfilling the Indian military’s order for 159 helicopters. That notwithstanding, the Ecuador contract is seen as a major milestone, validating the Dhruv as an internationally competitive machine. The ALH has been supplied earlier to Nepal and to Israel, but without competitive bidding and trials. Now one Dhruv is also ready for sale to Mauritius.

(Tomorrow: The Light Combat Helicopter project encounters delays)


  1. ajai ji, pls thoda aur pics....including frontal and side views...thanks a lot.

  2. Thank you ajai! Its really heart warming to see HAL taking huge strides ahead. Outperforming the biggest chopper manufacturer is something to cherish!

  3. hello sir,

    i heard that HAL had setup a separate complex for the development of indigenious choppers of diffrent payload and capabilities, is it true if yes please post something about it.

  4. Shukla ji, glad to see u back...
    What happend to Tejas trainer ?

  5. Ajai, with HAL undertaking mass production/development of sophisticated projects, how is it coping up with the imminent shortfall in manpower? Ditto, the IAF, after having committed to mass orders like MRCA, Mi-17, Sukhois etc. Please tell us something about it.

  6. Awesome pics.

    Ajai sir if you allow(in proper way as per wikipedia) then i would like to put one(1st) pic on wkipedia.

    Thank You.

  7. Rahul, please feel free to go ahead and post the picture on Wikipedia.

    Do provide proper attribution... I know Wikipedia is very correct about such things.


  8. Ajai, can you get us some info on the P-8I deal and how different this aircraft will be from P-8 for the U.S Navy. Thank you.

  9. Sir,

    Eagerly awaiting for your report on LCH.

  10. me too buddy... pls comment about LCH..

  11. gr8 pics by the way ajai shukla!! i missed ur reporting really when u were away!!

  12. ajaiji, why cant they just load the 5 dhruvs on a cargo ship and send it? wont it be easier?

  13. Ajai, what is your opinion on the fit and finish of the Dhruv compared to the Mi-17s, NH-90s, etc?

  14. sorry for the multiple posts but could you please give more details about the Dhruv to Mauritius?

    thanks in advance

  15. Hey Ajai..

    Thanks. great reporting.. Missed it last few months..
    Would appreciate if you could throw some light on what the guys there (ADA/HAL/IAF - assuming they are the final decision makers)are thinking on engine for Tejas MK2- GE or EJ.. Also what is the timeline for decision.. and How much time to integrate the engine (including testing) post decision.. I know these are kind of premature questions but really hoping you could get some feelers.. Thanks.
    Also, It is very easy for nations to squabble over territory without even considering what the junta residing in the area thinks about the whole fuss!!. Ur opinion - what do the people of Arunachal feel about being in a disputed territory.. Are they insecure about Chinese running over some day? Are there some whose sympathies lie with the Chinese.. If yes why? What are the initiatives taken by Indian govt for development in AP? Are they tangiable.. felt by people or do they also feel alienated like other NE people.. How is Arunachali culture? If possible, please give some answers here. Anyway looking forward to your book.. Hope you are covering the humane aspect.. That is the part most people miss out on usually.. cheerio!

  16. Ajai sir: Thanks a lot for your generosity.

    BTW sir i have posted a question in previous blog and the question was "i can see right wing of another LCA which is painted in yellow in TD-1s pic. Please name it."

  17. Beautiful work by HAL, doing everything correct on the PR front. Someone in the marketing and support departments knows their job quite well. Hopefully Chile and Colombia are attracted enough to buy these, HAL will need a new South America division that will make sure all these countries get spares on the cheap. And sell it to enough countries there, and some African and Asian countries are bound to notice...

  18. Reports on the LCA coming up. Incidentally, the aircraft whose wing you can see, Rahul, is the first trainer LCA. I was standing on that when I took the photo of the decommissioned LCA prototype!

    Will post... am just hugely busy with a DRDO seminar that I am attending in Bangalore.

    Will also post a pic of the Mauritius Dhruv.

    Articles coming up on the LCA... and it's first bombing trials... and pics. Stay tuned.

  19. ajai pls stay back in bangalore/mumbai/chennai... when u are at aruachal its really boring for us... no updates of this sort... plssssss....

  20. ajai ji! How serious is the accident involviing IJT PT-2. I hope belly landing has not damaged
    the aircraft totally! what was projected as sort of record to design,develop and build the plane in 39 months or so,has got neutralized! can you please tell us the status of IJT PT-2. will the PT-1 with stand extra 200 kgs of l-55I NPO engines? can you throw some light?


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