Adding a significant punch to its combat capability, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Monday inducted its first batch of indigenously-made Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), named Prachand.
While attending the induction ceremony of the Made-in-India helicopters at Rajasthan’s Jodhpur Air Force base, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the move will enhance India’s capability and boost defence production.
“There could not have been a better time for the induction of LCH other than Navratri, in the land of warriors, Rajasthan,” he said.
In March this year, the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by the Prime Minister, had given a go-ahead to procure 15 LCH Limited Series Production (LSP) for Rs 3,887 crore with allied infrastructure 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 IAF and Army require an estimated 160 LCHs in the coming years. The Army alone plans to acquire 95 helicopters for deployment in the mountains. The Army expects to make operational its first squadron of LCH helicopters next month.
Indigenous Combat Helicopter
A 5.5-tonne class combat helicopter designed and developed in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and powered by twin Shakti engines, the LCH are equipped to take out enemy air defences and can be deployed for counter-insurgency and search-and-rescue operations as well. They can also be used against certain aircraft and enemy remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs).
The highly agile and manoeuvrable helicopters have multiple stealth features and are armed with 20mm turret guns, 70mm rocket systems and air-to-air missiles. The helicopters also have armour protection, night attack capability as well as crash-worthy landing gear for better survivability.
As per reports, the helicopters have 45% indigenous content by value, which is set to go up to over 55% in the next version of the chopper. Being on the import embargo list, India’s dependence on foreign combat helicopters will go down.
The next series production version of the choppers will be equipped with the latest indigenous systems.
Boost to India’s Mountain Combat Capability
The choppers can be deployed against enemy infantry troops, tanks and bunkers across all terrains, including in high-altitude areas over 20,000 feet, thus boosting India’s capabilities along its border with China.
The choppers have been flown across Ladakh as well as in the deserts in the past, proving their capability to operate in any terrain. In 2020, two helicopters were flight-evaluated in eastern Ladakh amid the military standoff with China in the region.
Efforts are underway to integrate new weapons on the chopper with DRDO and HAL.