The designers, engineers, test pilots and the maintenance crew at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) are a delighted lot, thanks to stupendous search and rescue (SAR) missions undertaken by the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH-Dhruv), during the recent Op Rahat in Char Dham.
Dhruv’s compact size and high agility enabled pilots to fly in most of the narrow, high altitude valleys of Uttarakhand.
“Even the Mi-17s could not negotiate the hostile terrain. Dhruv’s best-in-class cabin space can accomodate 14 fully equipped troops, while its sliding and large rear clamshell doors provide easy loading of stretchersbulky loads. The chopper’s high-power engines and hinge-less composite main rotors too came handy during operations in Charm Dham. Other helicopters might have powerful engines, but the control power of their conventional rotors reduces drastically with altitude. Dhruv’s rotors are designed to operate in typical Indian extreme weather conditions,” an HAL official told ‘Express’.
During a rescue sortie at Kedarnath, a Dhruv airlifted 17 passengers from the high altitude helipad, whereas the much larger Mi-17 airlifted fewer passengers from there.
In another specific case, a Dhruv landed on a high altitude postage-stamp sized clearing to pick up stranded people. The crew of a much smaller civil Bell-407 was not able to land there.
HAL’s technical crew too played a role in keeping the machines in good shop, at very short notice. “There were no major down-times or maintenance issues reported during the operations. Precautionary maintenance back-up was also given by our crew stationed at ALGs (advanced landing ground) for the rescue operations. Dhruv has definitely carved a niche for itself in the weight gap between the Chetak and Mi 17,” sources said.
As part of Op Rahat, 24 Dhruvs (18 from IAF and six from Army) flew over 550 hours from multiple locations in the SAR role.