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SOURCE: RAUNAK KUNDE / NEWS BEAT / IDRW.ORG

India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is gearing up to take on the waves with its Utility Helicopters-Maritime (UHM) program, a maritime variant of the versatile ALH Dhruv chopper. This crucial project aims to provide the Indian Navy with 60 next-generation helicopters tailored for coastal and offshore operations, boosting India’s maritime defence capabilities.

The UHM program is on a fast track, with the rollout of the prototype scheduled for October 2024 and the second prototype following suit by April 2025. This rapid development timeline puts the UHM on course for full operational readiness by 2025-2026, marking a significant milestone in India’s naval modernization efforts.

The UHM development is guided by a joint study conducted by HAL and the Indian Navy in October 2023. Based on the Navy’s specific needs, HAL is optimizing the Dhruv platform to excel in maritime environments. 

Key modifications include:

  • Increased weight capacity: UHM will be optimized for a maximum take-off weight of 5.7 tonnes, allowing for greater payload and mission flexibility.
  • Reduced empty weight: Through the judicious selection of lightweight avionics and mission sensors, HAL aims to reduce the UHM’s empty weight, further enhancing its payload capabilities.
  • Boosted payload capacity: Up to 600 kg of payload will be possible for deck operations, making the UHM a versatile asset for various missions.
  • Space-saving design: Foldable two-segment blades and modified upper control systems will minimize the UHM’s stowage dimensions, facilitating easier deployment from onboard ships.
  • Seamless ship integration: An ASIST (Aircraft Ship Integrated Secure and Traverse) traversing interface will ensure smooth and safe movement on ship decks.

The UHM program promises to equip the Indian Navy with a modern, adaptable helicopter platform optimized for maritime operations. Its enhanced range, payload capacity, and ship compatibility will enable the Navy to undertake diverse missions, including:

  • Coastal patrol and surveillance
  • Search and rescue operations
  • Special forces deployment
  • Anti-piracy patrols
  • Logistics support

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