Tuesday, February 15, 2011

HAL delivers Namibian helicopters

India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has delivered a Chetak (Hindi: horse) – a licence-built version of the Aérospatiale (now Eurocopter) SA 316B Alouette III – to the Namibian Defence Force under a US$10 million order signed in June 2009. Two Cheetah (Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama) will be delivered in June under the same contract.

The hand-over took place Wednesday at the Aero India air show in Bangalore. “HAL is committed towards meeting the target of handing over two Cheetahs to Namibia and work in this regard is in full swing", HAL managing director P Soundara Rajan said after handing over the rotorcraft to Namibian defence minister Major General (Ret) Charles Namolah. The authoritative London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies notes the Namibian Air Force operates 2 Mil Mi-25 “Hind” attack helicopters, 2 Mil Mi-17 “Hip” medium transports and two SA 319 Alouette III. 

'We will provide ground support equipment, ground handling equipment and initial set of spares for maintaining the copter, besides training to Namibian pilots and ground crew,' Rajan said at the event. Powered by a Turbomeca Artosute III B turboshaft engine, the high-performance helicopter is designed for operation over a wide range of weight, centre-of-gravity and altitude conditions. HAL's helicopter division manufactures the five-seater Cheetah and seven-seater Chetak helicopter at its Bangalore complex. The machine can be used for transporting passengers and cargo, as also for casualty evacuation, search-and-rescue, and surveillance and observation. 

The Namibian delegation visiting the South Asia's biggest air show includes its High Commissioner to India Samuel K. Mbambo, and NAF Commander Air Vice Marshal M.K. Pinehas. 

Chetak and Cheetah production at HAL began under a licenced agreement with Eurocopter in 1970. The helicopter division of HAL has so far produced nearly 350 Chetaks and 250 Cheetahs, mostly supplied to domestic customers, both the defence and civilian sector, and has exported a few of them. The two helicopters were extensively used by the armed forces in the icy heights of Siachen, once the world's highest battlefield, where guns fell silent in 2003 after a ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, the Times of India reports.
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