IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


17th March, 2023 Security

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Context: Two pilots were killed after a Cheetah helicopter of the Indian Army crashed in Arunachal Pradesh.



  • The HAL Cheetah is a licence-built version of the French Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama.
  • While it is known for its capability to operate in hot tropical weather as well as high altitude conditions, it is an ageing aircraft – the SA315B Lama was first flown in 1969, over 50 years ago.
  • Over the years, along with HAL Chetak, the Cheetah has developed a reputation of being unsafe, with the armed forces attempting to find upgrades for these rotorcraft.
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited signed a licence agreement for the Lama with Aérospatiale in 1970 and christened the India made aircraft “Cheetah”.
  • The first Cheetah manufactured from raw materials was delivered in 1976-77.
  • Operated by both the Indian Air Force and the Army Aviation Corps, it has been used for transporting men and material, search and rescue, and reconnaissance.
  • Cheetahs have especially been crucial for operations in Siachen, the world’s highest battleground at over 6,000 m.

Lancer: HAL also managed to arm the Cheetah with two 12.7 mm heavy machine guns and 70mm rockets, marketing this modified Cheetah as the Lancer.

An ageing aircraft still integral to India:

  • Of late, Cheetahs’ airworthiness has been repeatedly questioned in the context of numerous incidents over the years.
  • Apart from crashes, Cheetahs are also  high-maintenance, with spare parts increasingly harder to find these days.
  • In fact, as far back in 2002, authorities had already recognised that Cheetahs were fast getting obsolete, underpowered and unreliable for the armed forces’ requirements.
  • The reason why the Cheetah continues to be a mainstay for Indian armed forces operating in the mountains is because there is no better alternative available at the present. While there are definitely better “hot and high” performance helicopters such as the Airbus H125 available in the market, India has focussed on indigenous development and production.
  • Starting in 2008, HAL has been working on an indigenously developed Light Utility Helicopter (HAL LUH), to eventually replace the Cheetahs and Chetaks in the Army and Air Force’s fleet.
    • However, development has been slow, with initial operational clearance obtained only in 2020.
    • Currently, HAL has been given permission to manufacture 12 LUH, with deliveries set to take place in 2024.


Q) Which of the following statements is/are correct with reference to Cheetah Helicopter?

a. It is an indigenously designed and manufactured helicopter.

b. It is known for its capability to operate in hot tropical weather as well as high altitude conditions.

 I. Only a

II. Only b

III. Both a and b

IV. Neither a nor b

Answer: Option II