The indigenous Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), capable of destroying enemy air defense, conducting counter-insurgency strikes, and much more, was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Jodhpur air base on Monday.
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. According to its makers, the LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world that can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 meters with a considerable load of weapons and fuel, meeting the specific requirements laid out by the Indian Armed Forces.
The LCH has been designed as a twin-engine, dedicated combat helicopter of 5.8-ton class, thus categorized as light. It features a narrow fuselage and tandem — one behind the other — configuration for pilot and co-pilot. The copilot is also the Weapon Systems Operator (WSO). While LCH inherits many features of the ALH, it mainly differs in tandem cockpit configuration, making it sleeker. It also has many more state-of-art systems that make it a dedicated attack helicopter.
The helicopter uses radar-absorbing material to lower radar signature and has a significantly crash-proof structure and landing gear. A pressurized cabin offers protection from nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) contingencies. The helicopter is equipped with a countermeasure dispensing system that protects it from enemy radars or infrared seekers of enemy missiles. As far as weapons systems are concerned, a 20 mm turret gun, 70 mm rockets, and air-to-air missile systems are onboard.LCH is powered by two French-origin Shakti engines manufactured by the HAL.
In March this year, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the procurement of 15 LCH Limited Series Production (LSP) — 10 for IAF and five for Army — at the cost of Rs 3,887 crore along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore. According to HAL, there is a projected requirement of 160 LCHs — 65 for IAF and 95 for the Indian Army. After receiving a contract for the LSP in March, some units have already been delivered and the rest are at various stages of acceptance. HAL has said that it has drawn a detailed masterplan for achieving the peak rate production capacity of 30 helicopters per year in order to produce the remaining 145 LCHs in eight years from the date of signing of the Series Production order.