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Indian attack chopper expected by year end

  |   Sept. 9, 2011 at 6:17 AM
NEW DELHI, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- The Indian army will induct the attack version of the indigenously built advanced light helicopter into the army aviation corps this year, a defense official said.

The Rudra light combat helicopter is a "heavily loaded" version of the advanced light helicopter Dhruv. The Rudra is armed with an array of guns and rocket pods as well as air-to-air and anti-tank missiles, a report by the Press Trust of India said, without naming any army official.

The PTI report gave no other details or dates.

The Rudra first flew in March 2010.

India's army has been waiting for the armed version since the utility helicopter Dhruv, built by Hindustan Aeronautics, entered service in 2002. Around 160 are believed to have been ordered by the army and navy from the company's assembly plant in Bangalore.

Even the unarmed utility version, which also is available for civilian use, was a long time coming.

The Dhruv project was announced in 1984 when Hindustan Aeronautics began designing the aircraft with assistance from the German aerospace company Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm.

MBB was formed as the result of several mergers in the late 1960s and which in 1989 was bought by Daimler-Benz Aerospace. MBB is now part of EADS.

The Dhruv first flew in 1992 and has been exported first to Ecuador in 2008 for $50 million and then to Nepal and Israel.

Hindustan Aeronautics won the Ecuadorian order amid strong competition from Elbit, Eurocopter and Kazan.

"HAL's offer of $50.7 million for seven helicopters was about 32 percent lower than the second lowest bid from Elbit," a June 2008 Indian Ministry of Defense statement said.

But exports have suffered because of an accident in October 2009. One of the seven sold to the Ecuadorian air force crashed during a military parade, leaving two crew injured.

The helicopter veered off course while flying in formation with two other helicopters over an air force base near Quito and hit the ground nose first, the PTI reported at the time.

The Ecuadorian air force grounded the other six Dhruv until an investigation was completed. The investigation concluded pilot error was to blame.

In April, four Indian army personnel were killed in a Dhruv helicopter crash in north Sikkim state, near the Chinese border.

The Dhruv helicopter carries up to 12 passenger and two pilots sitting side by side, with a maximum takeoff weight of 12,125 pounds. Maximum speed of 180 mph is from two Shakti turboshaft engines or two Turbomeca TM 333-2B2 turboshaft engines. The service ceiling is around 27,500 feet.

The Rudra version has the two pilots sitting one behind the other.

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