Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) third prototype light utility helicopter (LUH) has successfully performed its first flight.

The helicopter is designed by HAL’s Rotary Wing Research and Design Center (RWR&DC) and weighs 3t, has a range of 350km with 400kg payload, and a 6.5km service ceiling.

It was flown by retired wing commander Anil Bhambhani and captain M R Anand V M.

Commenting on the achievement, HAL CMD R Madhavan said: “LUH is now close to production clearance and HAL is confident of meeting customer requirements of the Armed Forces.”

HAL Engineering R&D director Arup Chatterjee added: “The successful completion of the first flight of the third prototype of LUH is a quantum leap and will soon replace the ageing fleet of Cheetah / Chetak.”

“LUH is now close to production clearance and HAL is confident of meeting customer requirements of the Armed Forces.”

This flight follows after the helicopter completed a 6km altitude flight as part of envelope expansion tests.

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The successful flight will also boost development flight testing and move aircraft PT1 and PT2 towards certification.

It is equipped a TM/HAL Ardiden 1U/Shakti 1U single turboshaft engine and can carry six passengers with two pilots.

The LUH can operate as a transport helicopter and perform reconnaissance, transport, cargo load, and rescue operations.

Principal orders are already in place for a total of 187 LUHs from HAL, with 126 helicopters for the Indian Army and the remaining 61 for the country’s Air Force.

SHAL LUH PT-1 conducted the first flight in September 2016.

The second prototype PT-2 performed its maiden flight on 22 May 2017.

The LUH will undergo high altitude cold weather trials this January.