On Wednesday, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the purchase of 15 indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) at a cost of Rs 3,887 crore for the Indian Armed Forces.
The defence ministry stated in a statement that the Indian Air Force will receive 10 helicopters and the Indian Army will receive five. We look at the LCH’s features, why it is so important, and the evolution of helicopters employed by the Indian Armed Forces.
India’s Helicopters fleet
Over the last few years, the Indian Armed Forces’ helicopter force has rapidly grown. The Indian Air Force recognised the need for helicopters in the 1960s, and the first Mi-4 helicopters were inducted right before the India-China War. The Soviet transport helicopter played a key part in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, and the Indian Air Force gradually adopted it as a workhorse.
In addition to the Mi-4, the IAF received Chetak helicopters from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in 1962. The Aloutte III helicopter was renamed Chetak for the Indian Armed Forces, after the famed horse of the 16th Century Rajput monarch Maharana Pratap.
The IAF has inducted various different helicopters as time has gone and military requirements have changed.
The Indian Air Force now has the Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters, the Boeing-made CH-47F (I) Chinooks, which have improved the country’s heavy heli-lift capability, the Mi-17 V5 — which is used to transport the Prime Minister domestically, the Mil MI-25 and MI-35 attack helicopters, and the Dhruv ALH in its inventory.
And the LCH was born…
The LCH was conceived in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil War. Experts stated that India had felt the lack of an assault helicopter that could operate at ultra-high altitudes throughout the war.
HAL declared its goal to create an LCH capable of operating in both harsh desert conditions and high altitude areas of Ladakh, including the Siachen Glacier, in 2006. After repeated delays, the maiden test flight of these helicopters took place in 2010.
HAL claimed that the LCH was ready for ‘operational induction’ after its weapons trials in January 2019 and February 2020.
The LCH’s features
The LCH, designed and constructed by HAL, is a true ‘Make in India’ product that was developed with the help of private industry. The helicopter currently has roughly 45 percent indigenous content in terms of value, which will gradually expand to more than 55 percent.
The LCH is a multi-role attack helicopter that boasts of being the world’s only attack helicopter capable of landing and taking off at an altitude of 5000 metres (16,400 feet) while carrying a significant load of weaponry.
The LCH has a maximum takeoff weight of 5,800 kg and is powered by two Shakti engines. The helicopter has a top speed of 268 km/h and a range of 550 kilometres. The LCH is equipped with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as a 20 mm cannon and 70 mm rockets.
According to HAL’s website, the LCH has various stealth features, including armour protection, night attack capability, and crash capable landing gear, all of which contribute to its survivability.
LCH’s role in the IAF
Because it can conduct combat search and rescue and destroy enemy air defence, the LCH may serve a flexible function in the Armed Forces.
The helicopter can also be used to support ground forces in high-altitude bunker-busting operations, counter-insurgency operations in jungle and urban environments, and high-altitude bunker-busting operations.
“It would be a formidable platform to suit the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.