ALH Naval Dhruv MKIII

As you know that in 2021, the naval variant of HAL Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv has been commissioned into the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard. The early feedback suggests that both services are extremely happy with the performance of the Naval Dhruv helicopter. That’s why, in today’s Guarding India Exclusive, we will cover all the amazing capabilities of this new helicopter of the Indian Navy. You may watch our YouTube video on Naval Dhruv or may continue reading this article.

Before talking about this new helicopter of the Indian Navy, few important things must be known to anyone discussing naval helicopters. Firstly one must understand that flying over sea is quite different than flying over land as in case of any technical problem, you cannot make an emergency landing and therefore a naval helicopter has to be very reliable.

Secondly, while flying over sea helicopter is expected to face major storms, fast winds, and rains. That’s why a naval helicopter is expected to be robust enough to deal with adverse weather conditions. The third and the most important thing is that while having all the above-mentioned capabilities, a naval helicopter must be compact enough to fit inside the limited space of the ship.

Due to all these reasons, to date, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard have kept HAL’s ALH Dhruv helicopter in limited service only. However, after delivery and acceptance of the new naval Dhruv helicopter, it is clear that after the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, now Dhruv helicopter will also be entering full-fledged service with the Indian Navy too.

However, there is an interesting story behind this development. A few years back, when the Indian Army inducted HAL Dhruv’s armed variant Rudra, then Indian Navy pilots also flew Rudra helicopters. These naval pilots were surprised to see that even in a pitch dark night, Rudra‘s thermal cameras could read the name of any ship from 14 kilometers away.

Helina Missile Being Fired from ALH Rudra
Helina Missile Being Fired from ALH Rudra | PC : Indian Army

Naval pilots knew that such a helicopter will be very effective in coastal security means preventing any seaborne terrorist attack like 26/11 (2008 Mumbai Attack). Immediately after this, the Indian Navy decided that though HAL Dhruv still cannot fit inside cramped ship interiors it can be invaluable in coastal security operations. Thereafter, in March 2017, the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard ordered 32 Naval Dhruv helicopters from HAL.

Mumbai Terror Attack | PC : ANI

India’s new Naval Dhruv helicopters are of the latest Mark-III variant which is fitted with state-of-the-art systems. The most important feature of this helicopter is its nose-mounted surveillance radar which provides 270-degree coverage and can detect, classify and track multiple marine targets simultaneously.

For operating in adverse weather conditions, Naval Dhruv has been fitted with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) and weather mode which can easily detect targets in most inclement weather conditions. Besides this, it also has a moving target indicator to display all targets that have been detected.

Now we will discuss the second most important sensor which is the Israeli DCoMPASS™️ – Digital Compact Multi-Purpose Advanced Stabilized System EO pod. It has been fitted with third-generation Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) system, laser range finders, and laser target designators. Even during day or night, these systems can track any ship or boat from a distance of 15 kilometers.

Digital compact multi-purpose advanced stabilized system
Digital compact multi-purpose advanced stabilized system | PC : Elbit Systems

Now we will discuss a sensor that is the Indian Navy’s favorite. For the first time, the six Naval Dhruv helicopters being received by the Indian Navy will be fitted with ‘Made in India’ low frequency dunking sonar (LFDS) which is an anti-submarine system developed by Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory, Kochi.

Besides this, the Naval Dhruv helicopter has been fitted with 12.7-mm cabin-mounted machine gun, searchlight, high power loudspeakers, automatic identification system, and V/UHF communication system which provide it capability to conduct coastal surveillance as well as Search and Rescue (SAR) missions. Besides this, Naval Dhruv also has a removable medical intensive care unit and electrical rescue winch of 250-kilogram capacity which has provision for a rescue basket.

For operating all this equipment and for safely flying Naval Dhruv, it has a full glass cockpit that employs HAL’s Integrated Architecture Display System (IADS) for displaying consolidated flight information on LCDs.

HAL Naval Dhruv MKIII Cockpit
HAL Naval Dhruv MKIII Cockpit | PC : HAL

You will be surprised to know that previously, so many systems were found on the Indian Navy’s heavy helicopters like Kamov Ka-28, Sea King, and MH-60R. It is due to this reason, one may call Naval Dhruv a fully loaded variant as this additional equipment has also increased its all-up weight from 5,500 kilos to 5,750 kilos. Therefore, naval Dhruv has two Shakti engines that can keep it airborne for 3.5 hours continuously.

MH-60R Helicopter
MH-60R Helicopter | PC : Lockheed Martin

Finally, on behalf of Team Guarding India, I would like to say that the new Naval Dhruv helicopter of the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard is quite good and they will be comfortable handling certain tasks reserved for heavy helicopters. Additionally, the Naval Dhruv helicopter can also replace vintage Cheeta and Chetak helicopters of the Indian Navy. These helicopters will not only safeguard India from any future Mumbai attack but also keep Chinese and Pakistani Naval ships away from the Indian coastline.