The Indigenous Light Combat Helicopters were formally inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF) today- October 3. This is a 5.5-tonne class combat helicopter designed and developed by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
The induction ceremony took place in the presence of defence minister Rajnath Singh and the Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari and other top officers and other dignitaries. Today IAF inducted four Indigenous LCH. India has become the seventh country in the world to build its own combat helicopter based on its specific requirements. They are now formally part of Squadron 143.
What is special about this helicopter?
According to officials, the IAF has inducted these helicopters as these machines are the only ones in the world which have the capability to take-off and land at an altitude of 5000 m (16400 ft) and that too with loads of fuel and weapons. And this makes these helicopters special as they are able to meet the very specific requirements of the Indian Armed Forces.
Made in India
This helicopter has been made in India with the participation of private industry too and this has resulted in a significant spin off — establishment of an eco-system for manufacture. As reported earlier these helicopters are expected to be produced through participation of private and public partners.
And, more than 250 vendors are involved in various aspects of the production of these machines — from preparation of technical documentations, manufacturing of fixtures, tools & test equipment, components, assemblies, apart from 70 vendors who are involved in Indigenization of various items.
Financial Express Online has already reported that LCH has a narrow fuselage, and this is because of the tandem cockpit configuration for the pilot and co-pilot /Weapon System Operator (WSO).
It is equipped with crash worthy landing gear for better survivability, a number of stealth features such as reduced radar and infra-red signatures, armor protection, and night attack capability. And crew seats for better survivability.
It was post
Kargil war, that the need was felt by the IAF to have an effective helicopter weapons platform which would have the capability to deliver precision strikes at high altitude.
In October 2006 the design and development of the LCH was approved by the government. There is a total requirement of 160 LCHs (this includes 65 for IAF and 95 for the Indian Army).
Role in IAF
This helicopter incorporates advanced technologies. These technologies are for effective combat roles like Counter Surface Force Operations, Destruction of enemy air defence, Anti-tank; Counter insurgency, Search and rescue, and more.
The journey of LCH
Senior officials have said that extensive flight testing was carried out on four Technology Demonstrators. These tests were related to system checks, handling qualities and towards performance. And Flight testing was carried out at different altitudes and different weather conditions like extreme cold weather to Hot and then extreme heat of desert region. It has been tested at high altitudes of the Siachen range too.
Till date on the four prototypes a total of 2029 flights and 1576 flight hours have been carried out. And during 2017 Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for LCH Limited Series Production (LSP) for IAF was accorded by CEMILAC. And for the Indian Army it was accorded in February 2019.
Integration of Mission sensors like Video Recorder, Electro Optical system, Helmet Mounted Display System, Solid State Data and Weapon systems including Air To Air Missile system, Turret Gun & Rocket have been carried out and weapon firing trials are also all done and completed.
The Light Combat Helicopter inducted is with 70 mm rockets and air to air missiles. “It still does not have the most wanted feature, the anti-tank missiles. Helina, which is the Army Version) and Dhruvastra, which is the Air Force Version of the anti tank Missile Systems, are planned to be added to the LCH at a later stage. These have already been tested on the ALH Rudra helicopter and are ready for integration with the LCH,” Girish Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst explained to Financial Express Online.
Helina and Dhruvastra are Lock on Before Launch (LOBL) fire and forget Anti-Tank Guided Missiles of the third generation that can engage targets in a direct hit and top attack modes.
“It comes with all-weather day and night capabilities. And has the capability to destroy explosive and conventional reactive armour on combat tanks. It is one of the world’s most sophisticated anti-tank weapons. These missiles will be inducted along serially produced LCH instead of the current limited Series Production,” he added
According to Girish Linganna, “Each LCH can carry 16 anti tank missiles, which is significant firepower. At the same time, MBDA’s Mistral air-to-air missile integrated into the LCH will be handy against the proliferation of drones and their threat to the armour. It also has a 20 mm turret gun. The LCH can also carry 2 250 kg bombs – pre fragmentation and low drag.”
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