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Warplanes: India Builds A Helicopter Gunship
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February 24, 2013: The Indian Army recently received the first (of over 60) gunship version (the Rudra) of the locally made Dhruv light helicopter. The Rudra carries a 20mm autocannon and up to eight guided missiles or 70mm unguided rockets. An ASW (antisubmarine warfare) version can carry sonar gear and two torpedoes. The Rudra can also be equipped for electronic warfare. The Rudra has day and night vidcams, heat sensors, and a laser designator. The Rudra is basically a Dhruv with the additional sensors and stubby wings to hang weapons from. Without its weapons, Rudra can also be used as an all-weather transport or ambulance.

Although it is Indian made, until three years ago the Dhruv was assembled mostly (90 percent) with imported parts. The manufacturer had kept quiet about this because at least half the parts in "Indian made" weapons are supposed to be made in India. Since then the percentage of Indian made components has increased. As embarrassing as this revelation was, there are other problems.

For over three decades now, India has been making a mighty effort to develop the ability to design and manufacture modern weapons. It isn't easy, as military manufacturers in neighboring China can attest. But unlike China, Indian manufacturers don't have the license to steal technology and manufacturing techniques. This means more weapons components have to be imported, even if quietly and without any publicity.

The 5.5 ton Dhruv was in development for two decades before the first one was delivered in 2002. Since then over a hundred have entered service, mostly with the Indian Army, and nearly a hundred more are on order for several different customers. So far eight foreign customers have bought the military version and two the civilian version. A series of Dhruv crashes indicated some basic design flaws, which the manufacturer insisted did not exist. This delayed acceptance of the Dhruv by the Indian Navy and Air Force.

The Dhruv can carry up to 14 passengers or four stretchers. Max load is 2.5 tons and endurance is about two hours (depending on load and altitude). The Dhruv can also fly as high as 6,000 meters (nearly 20,000 feet). Northern India has a lot of mountains, so operating at high altitude was a key design requirement.

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