In the late 60’s the Indian Government set out a requirement for a Helicopter that could fly in “Hot and High” climates. Aérospatiale submitted a Helicopter based on their Successful Alouette II. The Alouette II first flew in 1955 and was being replaced by the heaver more powerful Alouette III. The submission of the new Helicopter would be a blending of these two proven rotorcraft.
The SA 315B Lama would use the smaller airframe of the Alouette II. The airframe however was reinforced and strengthened. To that airframe was mated the Alouette III power plant the Turbomeca Astazou IIIB. The IIIB originally rated at 870 Shaft Horsepower it was down rated to 550 Shaft Horsepower. The lighter airframe mated to the more powerful engine gives the LAMA gives the ability to carry up to 4 people or a maximum of 2,500 pounds of slung payload.
The new helicopter was first flown on March 17, 1969 piloted by Roland Coffignot and Gerard Boutin. It would get its French airworthiness certificate in 1970. In 1971 HAL, or Hindustan Aeronautics Limited received the license to produce the LAMA as the Cheetal. The HAL version first flew on October 6, 1972. Helibras of Brasil received a license in 1978 for production of the LAMA it is called the Gavião.
India primary uses the Cheetah for patrols and Search and rescue in the Himalayas. Launching from Bases as high as 24,600 Feet. That’s 4.65 miles high. India also has created an armed version called the Lancer. The Lancer incorporates, up-rated armour plate and has two pods carrying a 12.7mm machine gun and three unguided rockets. The Lancer has a redesigned “bubble” for reinforcement and better visibility. For self-defense it has the addition of Flairs and Chaff.
The LAMA is to operate in extreme climes. To prove this Aérospatiale wanted to originally land a LAMA on top of one of the Himalayan Mountains however it not given permission by the India Government. Aerospatiale decided on setting some records. In 1969 a crew of two with 260 Lbs of fuel took off and then landed at the then highest recorded altitude for a helicopter 24,605 feet above sea level. I might add that this has become routine for this helicopter.
On June 21, 1972 Jean Boulet took off solo in a modified SA 315B, the airframe had all of the interior removed except for the necessities for the pilot. He began is assent into the record books. Boulet a trained Engineer and Test pilot climbed his Lama to the still unbroken absolute height of 40,814 Feet. Boulet upon reaching that altitude began to throttle back the Turbo Engine only to have a the engine flame out. Boulet then began another record, albeit an unexpected one. Boulet autorotated, for over 30 minutes, until he safely landed. This is the unofficial world’s longest autorotation. It can never be official because it wasn’t planned for or officially documented.
In 2009 HAL reopened their line and started producing the Cheetah with the new Turbomeca TM 333. A single engine version, of the power plant, that drives the Dauphin and Panther helicopters.
Aérospatiale has produced 447 Lamas