HAL says it will conduct the maiden flight of its Light Utility Helicopter by the end of 2015. Source: HAL India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) plans to conduct the maiden test flight of its under-development Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) in December. HAL officials told IHS Jane's that the proposed flight of the 3.1 tonne single-engine LUH prototype followed successful ground tests in December 2014 and would coincide with the 75th anniversary of HAL's founding. Under development since 2008-9, the LUH is being developed to replace the obsolete Cheetah (Aerospatiale SA-315B) and Chetak (Aerospatiale Alouette III) helicopters, which have been operated by the Army Aviation Corps (AAC) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) since the 1960s. By mid-2017 HAL aims to have built four LUH prototypes and to have obtained initial operational (IOC) before series production starts in 2018 at a special helicopter facility it plans to build at Tumkur, 74 km north of Bangalore. HAL claims to have a confirmed order for 187 LUHs from the AAC and the IAF with deliveries complete by 2024-25. Powered by a single Shakti 1U turboshaft engine - a derivative of the Shakti (Arididen 1H1) engine developed jointly by HAL and France's Turbomeca - the LUH has a two-man crew and an operating range of 350 km. It is intended to be capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at sea level and 75 kg at its operational ceiling of 6,000 m. HAL envisions it fulfilling casualty evacuation and troop transport, as well as aerial reconnaissance and area surveillance. It will also be fitted with a cargo hook able to ferry an underslung load of up to 1,000 kg, HAL engineers said.