IAF Inducts LCH

It has met all challenges of hot and high terrain like no other attack helicopter

Smruti Deshpande

Four indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), christened Prachanda were inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Air Force Station Jodhpur on October 3. The induction ceremony, which began with a Sarva Dharma Puja, was presided over by defence minister Rajnath Singh.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh with CAS ACM Chaudhari and CDS Gen. Anil Chauhan in Jodhpur

The defence minister then formally handed over the first LCH to the air force. Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, while speaking at the event said the helicopter would be inducted into the 143 Helicopter Unit Dhanush of the IAF. This helicopter unit was raised on 1 June 2022. The handing over was followed by a ceremonial water canon salute to the new helicopter. The Indian Army too raised its first LCH Squadron on the same day in Bengaluru. The army was handed over its first the LCH by the Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) on 30 September 2022.

Present at the induction ceremony in Jodhpur were Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, South Western Air Command, Air Marshal Vikram Singh, chairman and managing director, HAL C.B. Ananthakrishnan, senior officials of ministry of defence, IAF and local dignitaries.

The multi role attack helicopter, developed by the HAL is meant to be deployed at high altitude regions. The Cabinet Committee for Security (CCS) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2022 had cleared the procurement of 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) LCHs at a cost of Rs 3,887 crore along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore. Of the 15 LCHs, 10 are for the air force and five are for the army. The first squadron of the LCH will be deployed in Jodhpur.

The LSP LCH is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured, state-of-the-art modern combat helicopter containing approximately 45 per cent indigenous content by value, which will progressively increase to more than 55 per cent for the Series Production (SP) version. The LSP LCH will allow HAL to obtain user feedback and make necessary changes before it begins the manufacturing of the SP LCH. A total of 145 series production helicopters are slated to be built giving the LCH a production run of at least 160. The HAL is planning to manufacture 30 helicopters annually when it attains peak production capacity. It has also built four prototype helicopters for the design and development programme.


Superior Firepower

A helicopter like the LCH was felt necessary after the Kargil war in order to safeguard the high-altitude regions through superior firepower.

In his address, Rajnath Singh praised the IAF for meeting internal as well as external threats to the country since independence. He said the induction of the LCH, with its tremendous power and versatility, not only enhanced the combat capabilities of the IAF but was also a big step towards self-reliance in defence production as envisioned by the Prime Minister. He said the trust reposed and support extended by the IAF towards indigenous design and development was evident through the examples such as Marut, Light Combat Aircraft, Akash missile system, Advanced Light Helicopter and the Light Combat Helicopter. “The induction of the LCH underlines the fact that just as the country trusts the Indian Air Force, the IAF equally trusts indigenous equipment,” he added.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said that induction of the LCH added unique capability to the IAF’s combat potential. The versatility and offensive potential of the LCH was on a par or better than most attack helicopters operating globally. The selection of the personnel for the 143 Helicopter Unit had been made based on professional competence to ensure operationalisation of the unit at the earliest, he added.

Two of the four newly procured LCHs during the induction ceremony

HAL CMD Ananthakrishnan said four LCH had been delivered to the IAF and four more would be delivered within this financial year. The defence ministry in a statement said ‘This helicopter is equipped with requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, high altitude performance and round-the-clock, all-weather combat capability to perform roles of Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), destruction of enemy air defence, counter insurgency operations in jungle and urban environments, destruction of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), high altitude bunker busting operations and support to ground forces.’ It would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of the IAF and the Indian Army, adding that the state-of-the-art technologies and systems compatible with stealth features such as reduced Visual, Aural, Radar and IR signatures and crashworthiness features for better survivability have been integrated in the LCH for deployment in combat roles catering to emerging needs for the next three to four decades.

Regarding the LCH’s capabilities, the IAF said the helicopter had met all the challenges of hot and high terrain like ‘no other attack helicopter in the world.’ The twin-engine LCH had demonstrated a capability of operating at 6.5km altitude with an adequate payload. The narrow fuselage makes the LCH an extremely manoeuvrable and agile platform to effectively undertake offensive operations.

With a combat radius of 500km, the helicopter can fly up to a maximum speed of 330 kmph. It has a service ceiling of 21,000 feet and is equipped with electro-optical CCD/ FLIR Pod. The LCH is powered by two French-origin Shakti engines manufactured by the HAL. The LCH is armed with 20 mm nose gun, 70 mm FZ rockets by Thales, Gen-III NVGs, anti-tank guided missile Dhruvastra and air-to-air missile Mistral-2 from MBDA. By making an attack helicopter, India has become the seventh country in the world to do so. The maker and operator of the helicopter claimed it was the only attack helicopter in the world that can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 metres with weapon load and fuel, significantly augmenting the firepower of the IAF and the army in high altitude areas.

As of today, all the LCH’s main armaments are sourced from European companies just as in the case to the Dhruv MkIV Rudra. The THL20 turret by Nexter is fitted with its 20 mm M 621 cannon. The THL20 has an average rate of fire of 750-800 rounds per minute and an effective range of up to 2,000 metre. The LCH has been fitted with a comprehensive Self Protection Suite (SPS) comprising of a Laser Warning Receiver (LWR), Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and a Missile Warning Receiver (MWR). Several key technologies of the LCH like its glass cockpit called the Integrated Avionics and Display System (IADS) and its composite airframe structure have been indigenised.

The helicopter underwent extensive testing and the first prototype took flight on 29 March 2010. The helicopter was subsequently tested on three more prototypes or technology demonstrators. The last one was completed sometime in 2015. The initial operational clearance came in 2017 for the IAF variant and in 2019 for the army variant.

The ceremony concluded with the defence minister embarking on a sortie on the newly-made helicopter. After returning from the sortie, he told the media that the helicopter was “very smooth and comfortable.”


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