IAF inducts indigenously-built Light Combat Helicopter
The induction of the LCH, an indigenous Light Combat Helicopter, marks a new chapter for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Air Chief Marshal (ACM), V. R. Chaudhari stated that the twin-engine helicopter was officially inducted into 143 Helicopter Unit ‘Dhanush’ at Jodhpur Air Force Station on October 3, 2022. According to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the LCH meets all requirements for both Army and Air Force. Last week, the Army received its first LCH in Bengaluru.
The LCH is comparable to or better than similar attack helicopters worldwide. ACM Chaudhari spoke at the induction ceremony, saying that the selection of the Unit was based on professional competence. This will ensure rapid operationalization.
CB Ananthakrishnan (Chief and Managing Director) of Hindustan Aeronautical Limited, (HAL), spoke at the event. He stated that four LCHs had been delivered to IAF and that four more would be delivered during the current financial year.
He stated that sub-systems and component production is done by more than 200 vendors. Indigenization involves 70 vendors. He added that HAL has initiated detailed production planning in order to prepare for exports.
IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited signed the contract for 10 LSP on March 30, 2022. The 143 Helicopter Unit Dhanush’, which operates the LCH, was raised on June 1, 2022.
HAL designed and built the twin-engine LCH, a dedicated combat helicopter of 5-8 tonnes. The 1999 Kargil conflict was the catalyst for the creation of this dedicated platform that can operate at high altitudes. It is the only attack helicopter that can land at a height of 5,000m (16,400 feet) and take off from there. The heavy load of weapons and fuel greatly enhances the firepower of IAF and Army personnel in high-altitude areas. It has a combat radius that extends to 500 km and a ceiling that can be used for service at 21,000 feet. This makes it suitable for use in high-altitude areas like the Siachen glaciers.
The helicopter’s first prototype flew on March 29, 2010. Since then, extensive testing and evaluation have been conducted. The LCH has a 20mm nose gun, 70 mm missiles, an anti-tank guided missile Dhruvastra’, and an air-to-air missile Mistral-2’ of MBDA with a maximum range of 6.5 km.
On June 1, 2022, the Army raised its first LCH unit at Bengaluru. The Unit currently has one LCH and will be transferred to Eastern Command by the end of next year. According to The Hindu, 95 LCH are being acquired by the Army, of which seven units each will have 10 helicopters. These units will be used to combat in the mountains.
According to the Defence Ministry, approximately 45% of LSP LCH’s indigenous value is contained. This will gradually increase to over 55% for Series Production versions. The import embargo has already included light combat helicopters.
According to the Defence Ministry, the LCH has the ability to maneuver, perform at high altitudes, and provide support for ground forces.
The IAF currently operates the Mi-25 and Mi-35 Russian attack helicopters. They are being phased out and have inducted 22 AH-64E Apache assault helicopters from the US. The Army will receive Apache attack helicopters starting in 2023. Six of them were purchased under an $800 million deal with the US in February 2020.
The IAF has around 500 rotary platforms. This includes 90 Mi-17s, more than 130 Mi-17V5s, and over 70 ALH, including the weaponized variant. There are also 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. One squadron of Mi-35 helicopters. And 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.
Army Aviation currently operates utility helicopters, but it does not have any dedicated attack helicopters. However, it does operate the weaponized Advanced Light Helicopter.