Aérospatiale Alouette III / HAL Chetak
- Category: Aircraft
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Maximum Speed: 113 knots (210 km/h)
Service Ceiling: 10,500 ft. (3200 metres)
Range: 290 nautical miles (540 km)
Avionics: Some have search radar.
Armament: ASW; Two Whitehead A244S torpedoes.
Role: Several helicopters roles are performed including embarked carrier-based search & rescue, utility & support to commando forces and more recently in ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) / ESM (Electronic Support Measures) roles.
Self Defence: A media report, dated 05 May 2007, stated that 15 KITE Electronic Support Measures (ESM) systems were fitted aboard the HAL Chetak and Kamov helicopters. Also, an additional 47 KITE systems are on order and in various stages of production & integration. The KITE ESM system is an indigenous development by the Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL).
The Leander Class frigates were designed to embark Multi-role Anti Submarine Torpedo Carrying Helicopters, whose acronym became `MATCH' helicopters. After the decision had been taken for the Army, Navy and Air Force to have a common helicopter, the French Alouette III was chosen for indigenous manufacture at HAL. The Navy's first three helicopters were imported from France. The remainder were supplied by HAL.
The Search and Rescue (SAR) Alouette helicopter had entered the service with VIKRANT in 1961. The survey ship DARSHAK, which had been designed to embark a helicopter and had entered service in 1964, first embarked an Alouette in 1970 to help survey the Gulf of Kutch. The tanker DEEPAK, which was commissioned in 1967, was designed to embark an Alouette. By March 1969, `Logistic Support' had been added to the Alouette's `Search and Rescue' role. On 15 March 1969, the Helicopter Squadron was commissioned as INAS 321. It comprised the SAR flights of VIKRANT, HANSA, GARUDA and DEEPAK.
The MATCH flight for the first Leander class frigate, NILGIRI, was commissioned as INAS 331 on 15 May 1972.
In the light of experienced gained in the 1971 war of how useful the light Alouette helicopter could be, Alouette flights were sanctioned for a number of ships. Apart from the first four Leanders and the frigates TRISHUL and TALWAR, which embarked the MATCH Alouettes, SAR Alouettes were sanctioned for the frigates BRAHMAPUTRA, BEAS, BETWA, the new training ship TIR and the new survey ships.
Since most ships were based in Bombay, embarkations were of short duration. INAS 321 relocated to INS Kunjali in Bombay on 1 August 1980.
In the early 1980s, HAL indicated that they were considering discontinuing the production of Chetak helicopters. Since the production of the replacement ALHs would take considerable time, HAL continued production.
A total of 85 Chetaks had been inducted into the Navy till 2002, of which 19 have been lost, leaving 66 in service. Additionally the Coast Guard operates 17 examples of the type.