Indian Air Force

HAL Dhruv: India’s Indigenous Helicopter In Making!

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) program for an indigenous multi-role helicopter was initiated in 1979 by Indian Air Force and Indian Naval Air Arm. The project was given to HAL by the Indian government in 1984. And in the same year, HAL announced the ALH project as HAL Dhruv. The main expectation of the Armed Forces was to get a helicopter that can perform roles like:-

  • Passenger / Commuter role
  • VIP travel
  • Casualty Evacuation
  • Under Slung Load
  • Rapid Deployment of Forces
  • Logistic Air Support
  • Search and Rescue

The first prototype of Dhruv flew in 1992. But the project was delayed by 10 years, due to the 1991 economic crisis in India. Also, the Dhruv was intended to use American LHTEC T800 engines, but due to American sanctions after the 1998 Pokhran nuclear test, the project was further delayed.

The project was revived again when the engine availability was sorted out. The French firm Turbomeca agreed to provide its TM 333 2B2 turboshaft engines as a replacement of American engines for Dhruv.

The French engines were not much powerful to meet Dhruv’s needs. So it agreed to co-develop a new more powerful engine with HAL named Ardiden (now known as Shakti) engines, which was developed in 2007. The modern HAL LCH and HAL LUH are also powered by the Shakti engines.

Also read: List of IAF transport aircrafts

The induction of the Dhruv helicopter started back in the year 2002. First inducted in Indian Coast Guard, then followed by the Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, and the BSF. Many civilian operators and various State Police Forces also use Dhruv helicopters.

As per the various need of our armed forces, the Dhruv helicopters has been upgraded and transformed into Dhruv Mk1, Mk2, Mk3 and Mk4. Let’s look into the variants of Dhruv helicopters.

Dhruv Mk1

HAL Dhruv Mk1
  • Production – Started in 2001
  • Powered by – 2 Turbomeca TM333 2B2 engines
    • Maximum power – 801 kW
  • Crew – 2 pilots
  • Capacity – 12 passengers

It is first operational version of ALH. It is suitable for a small roles like search and rescue operations, disaster relief, troop transport etc.

Dhruv Mk2

HAL Dhruv Mk2
  • Production – Started in 2007
  • Powered by – 2 Turbomeca TM333 2B2 engines
    • Maximum power – 801kW
  • Crew – 2 pilots
  • Capacity – 12 passengers

It is similar to Mk1 and its roles are also similar to Mk1 versions. The only difference is in its cockpit, which have more advanced avionics as compared to Mk1. Its avionics are upgraded with the help of Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI).

Also read: Why Submarines are painted black?

Dhruv Mk3

HAL Dhruv Mk3
  • Production – Started in 2010
  • Powered by – 2 HAL Shakti 1H turboshaft engines
    • Maximum power – 1032 kW
  • Crew – 2 pilots
  • Capacity – 14 passengers
  • Maximum speed – 292 km/h
  • Range – 630 km
  • Endurance – 3 hours 42 minutes
  • Service ceiling – 6,100 m (20,000 ft)
  • Payload – 1,000 kg

It was designed to fulfill the army’s need in high-altitude areas like Siachen. The ALH Mk3 has very good high altitude performance and can operate at an altitude over 6 km. It can also transport 14 fully equipped troops and a 600 kg payload to the heights of Siachen. It can perform basic operations like Mk1 and Mk2. But apart from its basic use, it has also advanced features like

  • IADS with Digital Moving Map
  • Electronic Warfare Suite
  • Electro Optical Pod
  • Counter Measure Dispensing System
  • Infrared Suppressor
  • Health & Usage Monitoring System
  • Solid State Digital Video Recorder (SSDVR)
  • Engine Particle Separator

The Dhruv Mk3 has also shown flight operation deck capabilities, which means it can be operated from various warships and INS Vikramaditya of Indian Navy. It can perform operations like reconnaissance missions, surveillance, offshore operations, etc.

Naval variant of Dhruv

Its naval variant is equipped with Israeli ELM-2022 radars, which can detect even small ships in adverse sea conditions, up to a distance of 290 km. It has foldable wings which make it easy to operate from warships. It is also equipped with a searchlight, which makes it capable to operate either day or night.

Dhruv Mk4 (HAL RUDRA)

HAL Rudra
  • Production – Started in 2013
  • Powered by – 2 HAL Shakti 1H engines
    • Maximum power – 1048 kW
  • Crew – 2 pilots
  • Capacity – 14 passengers
  • Maximum speed – 280 km/h
  • Range – 590 km
  • Endurance – 3.8 hours
  • Service ceiling – 6,100 m (20,000 ft)

The HAL Rudra is an armed version of HAL Dhruv. It is also manufactured by HAL. Rudra is an attack helicopter, which is armed with anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles,s, etc.

Rudra can also be used in both unarmed and armed roles that include reconnaissance, troop transport, anti-tank warfare, and close air support.

It has integrated sensors, weapons, and an electronic warfare suite. The sensors include stabilized day and night cameras, infrared imaging as well as laser ranging and designation. It has an Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS) from Saab AB, with electronic warfare self-protection which is fully integrated into the glass cockpit. On-board self-defense systems include radar & missile detectors, IR jammer, chaff, and flare dispensers.

HAL Rudra Armaments

  • 1 × 20 mm chin-mounted turret gun
  • 1 × 7.62 mm cabin mounted machine gun (for Indian Coast Guard)
  • 4 × 70 mm Thales 12 rounds rocket pods
  • 4 MBDA Mistral short-range air-to-air missiles
  • 8 Helina anti-tank guided missiles
  • 2 torpedoes and 4 anti-ship missiles (planned for Indian Navy)

Apart from the Dhruv series aircraft, the experience of making indigenous helicopters is also helping HAL to make HAL LCH and HAL LUH indigenously.

Thank you


Aniket Kumar

A defence aspirant, desiring to gain as much knowledge as possible by writing blogs because knowledge increases by sharing.

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