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Light combat helicopters made in India to be inducted by defence forces

The HAL-made LCHss are well suited for the anti-tank role wherein they can fly low and fast to attack enemy armour columns and destroy them

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The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the procurement of 15 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the army and the air force. In a significant move towards inducting indigenously manufactured combat platforms in the armed forces, the Ministry of Defence said, “The CCS has approved procurement of 15 LCH Limited Series Production at the cost of Rs 3,887 cr along with Infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore.” Ten light combat helicopters will be for the IAF and five for the army.

“LCH-LSP is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured -of-the-art modern combat helicopter containing approximately 45% indigenous content by value which will progressively increase to more than 55% for the SP Version,” the ministry added. “These are India’s first pure attack helicopters being made in India. These have tandem sitting which streamlines the design to achieve speed and manoeuvrability,” said an air force officer. “Has been specifically designed to meet the high-altitude requirements of the forces,” he added.

This helicopter is equipped with requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, high-altitude performance and round-the-clock, all-weather combat capability and can perform roles of combat and rescue (CSAR), destruction of enemy air defence (DEAD), against slow-moving aircraft and remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), high-altitude bunker-busting operations, counter-insurgency operations in forest and urban environments and support to ground forces, the MoD said.

-of-the-art technologies and systems compatible with stealth features such as reduced visual, aural, radar and IR signatures and crashworthiness features for better survivability have been integrated into the light combat helicopters.

History of light combat helicopters’ in India

The lookout for good light combat helicopters began during the Kargil war of 1999 when the absence of an attack helicopter that could operate in ultra-high altitude areas was felt acutely by the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF). The intruding Pakistan Army troops had occupied various heights on the Indian side of the Line of Control but the existing Russian-made attack helicopters in the inventory of the Indian military did not have the operational ceiling which permitted their deployment at those heights. The IAF was forced to use the helicopters in a modified role against those heights and suffered the loss of a helicopter when it was fired upon by the enemy.

In 2006, HAL announced its intention to develop light combat helicopters that could operate in the harsh desert conditions as well as the high altitude areas of Ladakh including the Siachen Glacier.

The first ground run of the first prototype of the light combat helicopters took place in February 2010 and a month later the first flight test of the helicopter also took place. Modifications were made to this prototype and the subsequent version was made public at the Aero India 2011 in February, and in June of that year, the flight test of the second prototype took place. A third prototype was further tested in November 2014 with integrated weapon platforms and sensors. This version was a considerably improved one with lighter weight and advanced configurations. In the next year, further hot-weather and cold-weather tests were done on the helicopter in Rajasthan and Ladakh and a fourth prototype was tested in November 2015.

In January 2019, HAL gave the go-ahead for the operational deployment of the helicopter after all systems had been fully integrated and checked for performance. The defence minister inaugurated the light combat helicopters production hangar at HAL Bengaluru in February 2020. The production line is reportedly geared up to deliver up to 30 light combat helicopters a year.

Features and utility

According to HAL, these light combat helicopters have “the maximum possible commonality with Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH)”. The attack helicopter has a pilot and co-pilot sitting in a tandem position (one behind the other). The helicopter has several stealth features and has armour protection, night attack capability and crash-worthy landing gear to give it better survivability.

Every LCH is powered by two Shakti engines and has a maximum take-off weight of 5,800 kg. With a maximum speed of 268 km/h, it has a range of 550 km and an operational ceiling of 6.5 km. Armed with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, an LCH also has a 20 mm gun and 70 mm rockets. With a full glass cockpit, the LCH has an Electronic Warfare suite and helmet-mounted display for the flying crew.

The light combat helicopters are well suited for the anti-tank role wherein they can fly low and fast to attack enemy armour columns and destroy them. HAL says it is also suitable for the scout role wherein it can fly ahead of advancing columns of the Army and detect enemy presence. It is also suitable for air defence roles and for the destruction of enemy air defence assets. The light combat helicopters can be used also in urban warfare missions and combat snd rescue operations.

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