Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama

1st Flight 1969

Military Users-

Afghan Air Force, Argentine Air Force, Argentine Army, Ecuadorian Army, Indian Army, Namibian Air Force, Pakistan Army, Togolese Air Force, Angolan Air Defense Force, Bolivian Air Force, Chilean Army, Ecuadorian Air Force, Air Force of El Salvador, Indian Air Force, Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie, Nepal Army, Peruvian Army.

The SA 315B Lama was originally designed to meet a Nepalese Army Air Service and Indian Air Force requirement for a rotorcraft capable of undertaking operations at hot and high conditions.

SA 315B Lama

Both countries possessed extreme mountain ranges in the form of the Himalayas in which even relatively powerful medium-sized helicopters could not be effectively operated within, thus there was an expressed desire for an aerial vehicle capable of operating in this challenging environment.

To achieve the desired performance, Aerospatiale elected to combine elements of two existing popular helicopters in their inventory, the Aérospatiale Alouette II and the Aérospatiale Alouette III to produce a new rotorcraft specialized for high altitude performance.

Specifically, the new helicopter, named Lama, was equipped with the Alouette III’s Turbomeca Artouste turbo shaft power plant and its dynamic systems, and was furnished with a reinforced version of the Alouette II’s airframe.

SA 315B Lama

On 17 March 1969, the first SA 315B, powered by an Artouste IIB engine, undertook its maiden flight.

On 30 September 1970, the type received its airworthiness certificate, and it was introduced to operational service in July 1971.

Due to its favourable high altitude performance, the Lama quickly became popular with operators worldwide, often being deployed within mountainous environments.

As with the Alouette series, the type can be fitted for various roles, such as light passenger transport, agricultural tasks, oil-and-gas exploration, aerial firefighting, and other specialized duties.

The military variants of the Lama include liaison, observation, photography, air/sea rescue, transport and ambulance duties.

The SA315B is particularly suited to mountainous areas due to its performance and can carry under slung loads of up to 1000 kg (2,205 lb).

SA 315B Lama

By December 1976, 191 Lamas had been ordered by 68 operators.

A significant number of SA 315B Lamas were manufactured under license in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), under the name Cheetah.

More than three decades after production in India began, HAL was still receiving export orders for the original Cheetah.

SA 315B Lama

Along with the Alouette III, the Cheetah was a key product for HAL, experience from manufacturing the type aided in the later development of more advanced indigenous helicopters such as the HAL Dhruv.

During the 1990s, HAL developed an armed light attack helicopter based upon the Cheetah, which was given the name Lancer.

In 2006, HAL proposed a modernised variant to the Indian Army, designated as Cheetal, the principal change of which was the adoption of a modern, more powerful Turbomeca TM 333-2M2 power plant in the place of the Artouste, HAL promoting the Cheetal’s capabilities for operating in high altitude environments, such as the Siachen Glacier.

SA 315B Lama

Other improvements include new warning indicates, a cockpit voice recorder, flight monitoring system, artificial horizon, and modernized electronics.

In 2006, an initial 10 Cheetals were ordered by the Indian Air Force.

In February 2013, it was announced that the Indian and Nepalese Armies had signed a 300 Crore contract for the urgent procurement of a further 20 Cheetal’s.

SA 315B Lama


Crew: 1

Capacity: 4 passengers or 1,135 kg (2,500 lb) slung payload

Length: 10.24 m (33 ft 7.25 in)

Height: 3.09 m (10 ft 1.75 in)

Empty weight: 1,021 kg (2,251 lb)

Gross weight: 2,300 kg (5,070 lb)

SA 315B Lama

Power plant: 1 × Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft , 649 kW (870 hp) de-rated to 410 kW (550 hp)

Main rotor diameter: 11.02 m (36 ft 1.75 in)

Main rotor area: 95.38 m2 (1,026 sq ft)


Maximum speed: 192 km/h (119 mph, 103 kn)

Range: 515 km (320 mi, 280 nmi)

Service ceiling: 5,400 m (17,715 ft)

Rate of climb: 5.5 m/s (1,080 ft/min)

SA 315B Lama


Aeroscopia Museum, Toulouse, France

Helicopters: An Illustrated History of Their Impact-Stanley McGowen

Jane’s pocket guide: Modern military helicopters- Tim Ripley


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