‘The LCH fills in an important gap for intercepting and engaging UAV’
Wg Cdr (retd) Unni Pillai, Chief Test Pilot (Rotary Wing) HAL

What is the update on LCH developments?
When it comes to the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), we have certainly been able to translate all the learnings that we had previously in testing the Dhruv. In fact, you can say the LCH is a quantum jump over the Dhruv in every way. The LCH is extremely manoeuvrable at the same time it is rock steady, yes these are conflicting but the LCH does both these things very well. It is a very steady weapons platform, an attribute for its dedicated attack role and fills in an important gap for intercepting and engaging Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Fighter aircraft are too fast for intercepting UAVs while the helicopters that we have are not fast enough, the LCH exactly fills this slot with its speed and mix of guns and missiles.

We are very pleased with its performance and are as good as frozen on the design for the airframe at this point. We are waiting for certain armaments to arrive in October, following which firing trials will be held as the integration work for these weapons has already been completed. The LCH can carry a full load of weapons till 14,000 feet which is unmatched anywhere in the world. Essentially, the LCH can fly at heights of 4.5 km with a full weapons load. The weapons fit on the LCH today is as defined by the user, and at any time if the services require a new type of weapon, this integration and testing can be completed very quickly.

The speed of LCH is 280 kmph and Dhruv is around 240 kmph. Because of its sleek design, you can maintain the speed and climb at faster rate. Dhruv takes 6.5 minutes to climb to 20,000 feet. In the summer at Leh, there is the Khardungla Pass which is at 20,000 feet. When you take off from Leh, all the helicopters whether they are Cheetah, Mi-8/Mi-17, they start orbiting over the town of Leh to gain height and once they have reached the necessary altitude only then do they cross the pass. In Dhruv and LCH, you just have to take-off and turn, the helicopter rockets upwards then you have to level out. Rudra has a top speed of 210 kmph, the LCH is able to achieve 280 kmph with all the external stores. In the final production version of the LCH, the glass cockpit will be from HAL and this has been developed in partnership with MCSRDC. As a result, it we will be able to integrate any new system onto the LCH, in a much faster manner. If the glass cockpit had been developed by a foreign vendor, then we would have needed to co-ordinate with that vendor for any weapons addition which would have been not only time consuming but also more expensive to make these changes.

What is the status of Flight Testing of Dhruv?
We are continuously testing the Dhruv and keep improving the platform. If you look at the variants from Mk1 to Mk IV there have been constant improvements in the basic helicopter. For eg. from Mk II to Mk III there was a huge jump, with regards to vibration reduction and a whole lot of things. Today, serviceability of the Dhruv Mk III is substantially improved over earlier versions and Mk IV is even better. We have improved aspects like the gearbox design and made a number of substantial changes. We will, of course, not stop improving the Dhruv and whenever we are made aware of issues, we look to resolve them as soon as possible. After the Dhruv entered service, we found pilots were reporting that the controls were very light on Mk I and Mk II. So, we actually made the controls heavier keeping safety in mind. We have also had to retrain pilots coming to Dhruv from older platforms to refrain from jumping on to the controls the moment they enter bad weather. In Dhruv they have to let the autopilot do its job and you should just monitor and this has been reinforced at HATSOFF.

Tell us about the Glass Cockpit.
Initially, we had IAI of Israel, then we decided to go with MCSRDC. In this interaction with IAI, we reached a certain level, then with MCSRDC we reached a different level. There has been a tremendous amount of work and people are very busy. We are trying to achieve commonality of displays, someone who has flown the Mk IV will not have any problem understanding the cockpit in the LCH. Our requirements keep evolving every five years and every five years new changes are required. To incorporate a change of component or weapon system on an imported platform – you have to go back to the manufacturer and this takes time and money. Dhruv has had four variants in 10 years and at any point of time you can have the latest avionics, sensors and weapons.


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