Warplanes: Nothing But The Very Ancient For India


March 15, 2013: The Indian Army has ordered another twenty Cheetal helicopters for $2.77 million each. Four years ago the Indian Air Force received the first four of ten Cheetals. These were the first Cheetals to enter service. The Indian Air Force now has 24 Cheetahs and 10 Cheetals. The Indian Army has 48 Cheetahs in service and 42 Cheetals on order. The main problem with this is that both of these models are obsolete, by modern standards of what a military helicopter should be.

The Cheetal is actually a Cheetah helicopter with a more efficient engine. This increases altitude (to over 7,500 meters), range, and payload. The Cheetah is a license built (by Hindustan Aeronautics) version of the French SA 315B. It's a 2.3 ton helicopter that seats four, has a max speed of 190 kilometers an hour, and range of 640 kilometers. Endurance is three hours. So far, India has produced 250 Cheetahs, mostly for internal, military, and commercial use. The Indian Army is also buying Cheetals (named after the Indian spotted deer).

Earlier (1950s and 60s) versions of this design were called the Alouette II. While the Alouette II was originally designed in the early 1950s, it has been continuously upgraded and improved ever since. During the 1970s, the SA 313 Alouette II evolved into the SA 315 Lama. But the basic design is quite old. India has been trying to buy some more modern helicopters but the military procurement bureaucracy is very slow and efforts to halt corruption in military purchasing have slowed the process still further.