Asia Defense

Indian Air Force, Army to Buy 15 Light Combat Helicopters

Recent Features

Asia Defense

Indian Air Force, Army to Buy 15 Light Combat Helicopters

The Indian Ministry of Defense has initiated the procurement of 15 indigenously built and designed light helicopter gunships.

Indian Air Force, Army to Buy 15 Light Combat Helicopters
Credit: HAL

The Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army (IA) are expected to purchase 15 indigenously built and designed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), according to a December 22 company statement.

“HAL has received a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 15 Limited Series Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army today,” the statement reads. The IAF is to receive ten, and the IA five.

The Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) cleared the purchase of 16 LCHs for the IAF and the Indian Army Air Corps (AAC) as part of a limited series production order in November 2016. The AAC has committed to buying 114 and the IAF 65 light helicopter gunships.

Then Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley officially kicked-off full-scale production of the LCH at a HAL production facility in Bengaluru on August 26. Initial operating capability of the LCH expected by 2018.  Four LCH prototypes are currently undergoing flight testing.

The first flight test of a LCH was conducted in May 2010.

“LCH has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land in Forward Bases at Siachen, 5400 mts [meters] above sea level,” the December 22 statement by HAL notes.

“The LCH, a derivative of the HAL Dhruv helicopter, has been primarily designed for high-altitude warfare – HAL and French engine-maker, Turbomeca jointly designed a special engine optimized for extreme altitudes – and has an operational ceiling limit of 6,000–6,500 meters (19,700–21,300 feet),” I explained previously.

As I reported in September:

The LCHs armament includes a 20 millimeter French Giat-Nexter turret gun, four Belgium-made 70 mm anti-tank guided missiles (or, once operational, the Indian Helina anti-tank guided missile, and MBDA Mistral-2 air-to-air missiles. As of now, the Indian military lacks an anti-tank guided missile to arm the LCH with.

The helicopter’s advanced electronic warfare suite is supplied by SAAB South Africa, whereas the LCHs modern sensor suite has been developed in cooperation with the Israeli’ defense industry. The gunship also features a data-link for network-centric operations.

The LCH participated in the IAF’s `Iron Fist 2016′ exercise in March 2016 test firing its weapons systems including missiles.

The 5.5-ton helicopter gunship, “is a multipurpose weapons platform and can be used against enemy tanks, armored personnel carriers, slow-moving aircraft, surface warships and even submarines. The LCH can also be deployed in search and rescue missions and battlefield surveillance.”

The LCH features a narrow two-crew armored cockpit. Per-unit cost is estimated at $18-20 million. In comparison, one of the latest variant of Boeing’s Apache gunships, the AH-64E comes in at around $35 million.