The SA 315B "Lama" was developed by Aerospatiale of France during the 1960s specifically to meet a military requirement by the Indian and Nepali armies for a "Hot-and-High" performer to operate in the more unforgiving parts of the region (namely the mountainous sectors). The result was the SA 315B "Lama" which essentially became an offshoot of the company's successful Alouette II light utility helicopter coupled with the power and performance capabilities of the Alouette III. The Lama went on to see global popularity in its own right and was in widespread use at its peak under the national flags of many operators including the Indian Air Force (IAF).
First-flight by way of a prototype was had on March 17th, 1969 and series introduction occurred in July of 1971. The helicopter remains in service today (2017) with several global operators though numbers are dwindling some with each passing year.
As built, the SA 315B featured a minimum operating crew of one and could carry up to four passengers in relative comfort (or and external cargo load of 2,500lb). Overall length was 33.6 feet with a width of 36 feet and a height of 10 feet. POwer was from a Turbomeca Artouste IIIB series turboshaft engine developing 550 horsepower (derated from 870 horsepower) and performance included a maximum speed of 120 miles per hour, a range out to 320 miles and a service ceiling of 17,715 feet. Rate-of-climb measured 1,080 feet-per-minute.
Externally the helicopter was given a very workmanlike appearance. The cockpit was enclosed in a light framework with heavily glazing that offered excellent vision and gave the helicopter a insect-like appearance. Immediately aft of the cabin was the engine installation which drove both the three-bladed main rotor and three-bladed tail rotor (the latter via a shaft). The tail rotor was set to the starboard side of the aircraft and served to counter the torque effect cause by the main rotor spin. The tail unit was exposed, made up of a basic frame of connected struts and this helped to keep the helicopter lightweight and inexpensive. The undercarriage was of a simple four-point skid assembly which allowed for landings virtually anywhere, even rugged terrain. The skids could also employ cargo holders along their length to give the small helicopter a limited equipment transport capability.
Beyond manufacture of the helicopter by French-based Aerospatiale, the Lama was also produced under local license by Brazil under Helibras (now a subsidiary of Airbus Helicopters) and by India under the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) brand label.
Major variants were the original SA 315B production model fitting the Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft engine. The Brazilian contribution became the HB 315B "Gaviao" which was a copy of the SA 315B. Indian models were the HAL "Cheetah" (SA 315B) and the HAL "Lancer", the latter which was a light armed combat model incorporating such features as armament support, reinforced cockpit glass and armor protection for basic survivability. The Lancer was introduced in the 1990s. The HAL "Cheetal" then followed the Lancer as a modernized form and was in 2006. This version was powered by the Turbomeca TM333-2M2 series turboshaft engine which increased overall performance.
The Lama series held the world air record for absolute altitude by a helicopter at 40,814 feet from the period spanning June of 1972 until July of 2017.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: MEDical EVACuation (MEDEVAC)
Extraction of wounded combat or civilian elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and available internal volume or external carrying capability.
✓Special-Mission: Search & Rescue (SAR)
Ability to locate and extract personnel from areas of potential harm or peril (i.e. downed airmen in the sea).
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
33.6 ft (10.25 m)
36.3 ft (11.05 m)
10.2 ft (3.10 m)
2,524 lb (1,145 kg)
4,850 lb (2,200 kg)
+2,326 lb (+1,055 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Aerospatiale SA315B production variant)
1 x Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft engine developing 870 horsepower and driving a three-bladed main rotor and three-bladed tail rotor.
Typically none. Armed military models by HAL of India have mounted weapon pods fitted with 1 x 12.7mm heavy machine gun and 3 x 70mm rockets.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 0
SA 315B "Lama" - Base Series Designation
HB 315B "Gaviao" - SA 315B produced by Helibras of Brazil.
"Cheetah" - SA 315B produced by HAL of India
"Lancer" - Armed combat version by HAL of India; reinforced cockpit panels, armoring and weapons support.
"Cheetal" - HAL modernized version of the Lancer; Turbomeca TM333-2M2 engine; increased performance and capabilities.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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