HAL Dhruv has become India’s first major weapons system to obtain large sales from abroad. With a unit price of at least 15% lower than its competitors, Dhruv has attracted attention in many countries, mainly from Latin America, Africa, West Asia, Southeast Asia and and Pacific Rim countries.
As one of the “emerging national economies”, India has a relatively developed defense industry. However, to meet the needs of building defense capabilities, the country still has to import a large amount of weapons and military equipment. In order to reduce its dependence on foreign countries, India is aiming to create an autonomous and modern defense industry.
Prime Minister Modi once said, “If India wants to be self-reliant in the security field according to the needs of the armed forces, we must make our own weapons.” Indeed, India and China share the view that “must have a powerful defense industry” to become a power in Asia. These two countries have the most powerful armed forces in Asia, and also spend heavily on defense budgets. Both India and China possess huge defense industries and advocate to equip their troops with the best weapons.
A country cannot be considered a great power if its army depends on foreign arms supplies. For India, which has long been aiming to be an autonomous defense industry, the Dhruv utility helicopter project is one such example.
Dhruv is a light utility helicopter manufactured by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. It was designed to meet the requirements of both the defense and civil sectors. Dhruv helicopter was developed with the help of German MBB, making its first flight on August 20, 1992. However, like other Indian defense programs, the Dhruv project has been delayed due to design problems as well as budget constraints and sanctions against India following the 1998 nuclear tests. Dhruv was officially accepted for service in 2002, as of 2020, about 280 units have been produced. In addition to civilian and commercial versions, military variants were also developed for the Indian Armed Forces, the most famous being the Mk4 variant known as Rudra.
Dhruv’s design is quite conventional. This helicopter has a length of 15.87m, a width of 3.15m and a height of 4.98m. The empty weight is 2.5 tons while the maximum take-off weight is 5.5 tons. The cockpit is designed for two crew members sitting side by side. The cockpit part of the fuselage is made of Kevlar and carbon fiber, glazed windshield that helps pilots have good vision.
The pilot is supported by SFIM four-axis automatic flight control system. Other integrated electronic systems include a HF/UHF communications radio, Identification friend or foe system, Doppler navigation, and a radio altimeter; a weather radar and the Omega navigation system were options for the naval variant. The partner Israel Aerospace Industries has also developed targeting systems and an electronic warfare suite for the Dhruv, as well as avionics for day-and-night flight observation.
India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited claims that Dhruv has about 29 percent made of synthetic materials. Behind the cockpit is the passenger compartment, accessible via two sliding doors on either side of the fuselage. Above the passenger cabin is a twin-engine that powers the four-blade main rotor. The four-blade tail rotor is installed on the starboard side. The high tail boom allows easy access to the scalloped rear door. The helicopter tail also contains a vertical fin and low mounted horizontal planes. The undercarriage is a pair of ski-type fixed landing gear, for simplicity in design and maintenance. In some versions the undercarriage is replaced with retractable landing wheels.
Dhruv was originally intended to be powered by the LHTEC T800 engine, but due to the embargo in 1998 a 1,000-horsepower Turbomeca TM 333-2B2 turbocharged engine was chosen. Turbomeca then also agreed to develop a more powerful engine for India called Turbomeca Shakti, its power up to 1,432 horsepower. These engines were installed on the Mk III and Mk IV variants. Dhruv can fly at a cruising speed of 250 km/h and has never exceeded 291 km/h. The range is 630 km, the service ceiling is 6,100m and the rate of climb is 10.33 meters per second.
In addition to the civil version serving transport, search and rescue role, the Dhruv helicopter also has a military version called Rudra was born in 2007 and officially served since 2012. On military versions, the Dhruv is equipped with stub wings to carry weapons. It can carry up to 8 anti-tank missiles, four air-to-air missiles, or four rocket pods for 70mm and 68mm rockets. As mentioned above, the Mk3 and Mk4 versions have been equipped with Shakti engines, new electronic warfare suite and warning systems, automatic chaff and flare dispensers, and improved vibration control system.
In 2006, Nexter Systems was awarded a contract to install the 20 mm THL gun turret on the first 20 Indian Dhruv helicopters. The turret is armed with a M621 low-recoil cannon and is combined with a helmet-mounted sight. On the Navy variants, it can be equipped with two torpedoes or four anti-ship missiles.
Dhruv has become India’s first major weapons system to obtain large sales from abroad. With a unit price of at least 15% lower than its competitors, Dhruv has attracted attention in many countries, mainly from Latin America, Africa, West Asia, Southeast Asia and and Pacific Rim countries.
So far, in addition to serving in India’s military and civilian forces, Dhruv is also in the service of many air forces such as Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Ecuador. In addition, Dhruv is also used by civil operators such as Turkey and Peru. Israel has also made use of the Defense Ministry’s Dhruv for marketing and public relations purposes.