After much anticipation, the first LCH attack helicopter was finally delivered to the Indian Air Force.
The LCH is a domestically developed multirole light combat helicopter, which is considered very suitable for operating in high-altitude battlefields, and capable of destroying enemy air defence and engaging in counter-insurgency operations.
The LCH also known as the Prachand, is a 5.5 ton class dedicated combat helicopter designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The official commissioning of Prachand marks India as the seventh country to build attack helicopters. It has been ordered by the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. Its flight ceiling is the highest among all attack helicopters in the world.
The first batch of 10 LCH, four arrived Monday, is being inducted into the Indian Air Force’s 143 Helicopter Unit at the Jodhpur Air Force Station. 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”. LCH is a result of the two-decade-long research and development since then. And its induction is an important milestone in the journey of indigenous defence production.
The true impetus for the development of the LCH Prachand came in the form of the Kargil War, a conflict fought between India and neighbouring Pakistan in 1999, which revealed the Indian armed forces lacked a suitable armed rotorcraft capable of operating unrestricted in the high-altitude theatre. Originally, the LCH was anticipated to attain initial operating capability by December 2010, however development of the type was protracted and subject to several delays, some of which having been attributed to suppliers.
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. According to HAL, the light combat helicopter is the only attack helicopter in the world that can land and take-off at an altitude of 5,000 metres with a considerable load of weapons and fuel, meeting the specific requirements of the Indian Armed Forces.
According to reports, the protective measures included in the rotorcraft includes a digital camouflage system, an infrared suppressor fitted to the engine exhaust, and an exterior covered by canted flat panels to minimise its radar cross-section. It is furnished with an integrated dynamic system, including a hingeless main rotor and bearing-less tail rotor, which works in conjunction with an anti-resonance isolation system to dampen vibrations.
The induction of the chopper comes at a time India and China are locked in a military stand-off in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh. It would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force and Indian Army.
According to HAL, there is a projected requirement of 160 LCHs, 65 for Indian Air Force 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.
LCH has a length of 15.8 m, a wingspan of 4.60 m, a height of 4.70 m, an empty weight of 2.25 tons, and a maximum takeoff weight of 5.8 tons. It is powered by 2 Turbomeca Shakti-1H1 turboshaft engines, with 1,384 shp each. LCH can reach a maximum speed of 268 km/h, range of 550 km, Endurance is 3 hours 10 minutes, service ceiling is 6,500 m, and Rate of climb is 12 m/s.
Its main armament includes a 20 mm M621 cannon on Nexter THL-20 turret. There are 4 hardpoints on the stub wing that can carry Rockets, missiles, and even bombs.