The Indian Air Force inducted the first indigenously developed multi-role Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) on October 3 at the Jodhpur Air Force base in Rajasthan. The LCH, developed by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), has been primarily designed for deployment in high-altitude regions.
The fleet of four helicopters was inducted at a ceremony in presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and other senior military officials. The helicopter will be called ‘Prachand’, which means fierce.
The formal induction of the LCH comes six months after the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in March approved the procurement of 15 LCH Limited Series Production (LSP) at the cost of Rs 3,887 crore.
LIGHT COMBAT HELICOPTERS; FEATURES
Light Combat Helicopter Limited Series Production (LSP) is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured state of the art modern combat helicopter containing approx. 45% indigenous content by value which will progressively increase to more than 55% for SP Version.
This helicopter is equipped with requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, high altitude performance and around-the-clock, all-weather combat capability to perform roles of Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (DEAD), Counter Insurgency (CI) operations, against slow moving aircraft and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), high altitude bunker busting operations, Counter Insurgency operations in jungle and urban environments and support to ground forces and would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of Indian Air Force & Indian Army.
State of the art technologies and systems compatible with stealth features such as reduced Visual, Aural, Radar and IR signatures and crash worthiness features for better survivability have been integrated in LCH for deployment in combat roles catering to emerging needs for next 3 to 4 decades. Several key aviation technologies like Glass Cockpit and composite airframe structure have been indigenised. The future Series Production version will consist of further modern & indigenous systems.
LIGHT COMBAT HELICOPTERS; THE BEGINNING
The thoughts of a lightweight assault helicopter for the Indian defence has its origins in the Kargil war of 1999. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in early 2004 declared about the prospects for a potential light combat helicopter derivative of the company’s existing Dhruv utility helicopter. The government sanctioned the LCH project in October 2006, and HAL was tasked to develop it. The HAL’s Rotary Wing Research and Development Centre, which had already worked on the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruva and its weaponised version ALH Rudra, embarked upon the project.
Before the induction, the Light Combat Helicopter underwent extensive flight testing on four prototypes, also known as Technology Demonstrators (Tds). The first Technology Demonstrator was completed in February 2010 and took its first flight on March 29 the same year. TD-2 prototype, completed around 2012, successfully passed the cold weather trials at high altitude. TD-3 and TD-4 prototypes, completed around 2014 and 2015, successfully tested other flight test requirements. The flight testing was carried out at various altitudes, from sea level to the Siachen range, in extreme cold and hot weather conditions, and in desert regions.
The initial operational clearance was given in 2017 for the IAF variant and for the Army variant in 2019. In August 2020, the MoD added LCH to the items under import embargo. In November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi symbolically handed over the LCH to the Indian Air Force, paving the way for its final induction.