THE Indian Air Force Monday formally inducted the indigenously developed multi-role Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), Prachand, which is suitable for operating in high-altitude battlefields, and capable of destroying enemy air defence and engaging in counter-insurgency operations.
The first batch of 10 LCH —four arrived Monday — is being inducted into the IAF’s 143 Helicopter Unit at the Jodhpur Air Force Station. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh presided over the induction ceremony along with the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari. The name, Prachand (fierce), was announced during the ceremony.
The LCH is a 5.5-tonne class dedicated combat helicopter designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). According to the IAF, the induction marks India becoming the seventh country to make attack helicopters.
Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the induction as “a special moment for the collective resolve of 130 crore Indians to make our nation strong and self-reliant in the defence sector”.
#WATCH | The first indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) inducted into Indian Air Force at Jodhpur, in the presence of Defence minister Rajnath Singh and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari pic.twitter.com/sh3fqkTprg
— ANI (@ANI) October 3, 2022
Speaking at the ceremony in Jodhpur, Rajnath Singh said the induction illustrates that “the way the nation trusts the Indian Air Force, the Air Force too trusts indigenously developed weapons and systems”. The Defence Minister also went on a sortie in the helicopter after the induction.
“For a long time after Independence, indigenous technology for the development of the attack helicopter was not given enough attention. As a result, the IAF had to depend on foreign-origin attack helicopters…not just for our own operations but also for UN peacekeeping missions in other countries,” he said.
Singh said the need for indigenous attack helicopters was felt “even more intensely” during the 1999 Kargil War. “LCH is a result of the two-decade-long research and development since then. And its induction is an important milestone in our journey of indigenous defence production. LCH’s glorious flight is not just powered by rotors, engines and blades but also by the dedication, courage and patriotism of the scientists, engineers and others who worked on it,” he said.
THE Limited Series Production version of the the ligh combat helicopter has around 45 per cent indigenous content by value. In due course, it will increase to more than 55 per cent for the Series Production version.
“I have been told the LCH has been designed for the requirements of the modern-day battlefield. In its developmental stages, the LCH proved its capabilities in all types of challenges. The platform ably fulfills requirements of our Armed Forces in all types of terrains. This makes an ideal platform for both Army and Air Force,” he said.
The formal induction of the LCH comes after the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by the Prime Minister, approved in March the procurement of 15 LCH Limited Series Production (LSP) for Rs 3,887 crore along with allied infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore. Of the 15 helicopters being procured from the LSP, 10 are for the IAF and five for the Indian Army.
The LCH has a narrow fuselage because of the tandem cockpit configuration for the pilot and co-pilot gunner — one behind the other — and has stealth features, armour protection, night attack capabilities and crash-worthy landing gear for better survivability.
Speaking at the ceremony, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari, said, “The induction of LCH adds a unique capability to IAF’s combat potential. Versatility and offensive protection of this platform is at par or better among attack helicopters available globally. 143 Helicopter Unit has the proud privilege to be the first LCH equipped in the Armed Forces. The personnel of the unit have been specially selected for their professional competence so as to operationalise the unit at the earliest.”
HAL Chairman and Managing Director C B Ananthakrishnan said, “The LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world that can fly and take off at an altitude of 5,000 metres with considerable weapons and fuel load, meeting the specific requirement of armed forces… More than 250 vendors are involved in the manufacturing of components, assemblies, fixtures, etc.”
Of the 10 helicopters for IAF in the Limited Production Series, four have been delivered and the rest will be delivered by the financial year-end, he said.
According to the Defence Ministry, the helicopter is equipped with the requisite agility, maneuverability, extended range, high-altitude performance and around-the-clock, all-weather combat capability to perform Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (DEAD), Counter Insurgency (CI) operations.
It can also counter slow-moving aircraft and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), and be deployed in high-altitude bunker busting operations and counter insurgency operations in jungle and urban environments.
According to HAL, there is a projected requirement of 160 LCHs — 65 for IAF and 95 for the Army. HAL has also drawn a detailed masterplan for achieving peak rate capacity of 30 helicopters per year to ensure production of the remaining 145 LCHs in eight years from the date of signing the Series Production order.