Hindustan Aeronautics’ Dhruv project aimed to create a light helicopter that was well suited to light helicopter roles in India’s range of weather and altitude conditions. The firm has supplied 76 Dhruvs to India’s armed forces, an armed version has been created, and another 159 are in production for India’s Army and Air Force as a complement to India’s derailed light helicopter competition. The Navy has declined to buy more Dhruvs for its own needs, however, saying that several aspects of the design were not up to naval requirements yet.
HAL signed an agreement with Israel Aircraft Industries in 2004 for global marketing of the helicopter, which contains IAI avionics and Snecma Turbomeca engines. Sales of 1-2 helicopters have been made to Israel, Nepal, and Bolivia for various roles, some Dhruv helicopters have reportedly been transferred to Myanmar by the Indian government, and civilian versions are flying in India and Peru. The helicopter has also been marketed in other places, such as Chile, where it lost to the Bell 412.
Now the Dhruv has reportedly won a $50.7 million Ecuadoran Air Force contract for 7 Advanced Light Helicopters in the face of competition from Israel’s Elbit Systems, EADS Eurocopter, and Russia’s Kazan. India’s Business Standard reports that HAL’s offer was about 32% lower than the second lowest bid, which as reportedly from Elbit Systems. The contract is expected within a few weeks, and the first helicopter will be delivered by HAL in 6 months.
November 4/15: A team from India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is preparing to travel to Ecuador in an attempt to resurrect a contract for Dhruv helicopter unilaterally terminated by the country in October. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is reported to have intervened to facilitate the meeting between HAL representatives and Ecuadoran officials. Four of seven Dhruv helicopters delivered to Ecuador through a contract signed in 2008 have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish].
October 16/15: After delivering seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters to Ecuador, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has now seen its contract with the country terminated after Quito unilaterally withdrew on Wednesday. Four of the seven helicopters – delivered through a contract signed in July 2008 – have crashed, with the remaining three now grounded [Spanish]. HAL saw Boeing back out of a deal with the company in July, citing shoddy manufacturing quality. The company has also seen crash statistics for its licensed-manufactured aircraft (including the Su-30MKI and Hawk AJT) grow alarmingly in recent months.