IAF gets a 'breather' for high skies

Oxygen life-support system to help during border area flying

IAF gets a 'breather' for high skies

India’s Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory (Debel) has developed an “oxygen life-support system” for helicopter pilots operating at high altitude.

The IAF realised the importance of such a system as high-altitude operations reduce the oxygen levels in the body, and pilots and other crew members have to depend on supplemental oxygen for normal breathing, which sometimes reduces the flight-time.

The technology, sources said, will prove critical especially during the IAF’s routine border area helicopter flights. Part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Debel was entrusted the task of developing the system by IAF on “urgent basis”. The prototypes developed were tested by the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification and were delivered to the IAF.

“It was a tough project for us and we are now in the process of transferring the technology to a few Indian firms, who will carry out the mass production,” sources said. The system consists of an oxygen cylinder, a pressure reducer head, dilution demand oxygen regulator and a mask mounted on the helmet.

In line with the military regulations and DRDO policy, even the prototypes had to go through rigorous tests and needed certification, only after which the IAF took up the user trials. Sources added the IAF has expressed its satisfaction with the product and gave the green signal to transfer the technology for mass production.

Debel was asked to develop a system that would last for over two hours and amplify the critical operations time, and Debel has delivered that for IAF’s Cheetah helicopters. The Laboratory is now in the process of developing a similar system for the Cheetal helicopters, which sources say could operate for over three hours. The IAF has also put in a request to develop a separate system for its Dhruv and Mi-17 choppers.

Further, sources added that each of these units would cost about Rs 1.5 lakh which they contended will be a little more than one tenth of the cost of an imported product.
DRDO is confident of bagging an order for at least 400 units, the real value of which, the sources refused to divulge.

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