NEW DELHI: India has deployed two of its new indigenous light combat helicopters, apart from the heavy-duty Apache attack and Chinook heavy-lift choppers acquired from the US, in
amidst the ongoing military confrontation with China there.
The deployment of the twin-engine LCHs, which are not fully weaponized yet, in the high-altitude region is a show of support for the indigenous choppers ahead of their proposed induction into the armed forces.
The initial order for 15 LCHs is likely to be placed on defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) before the end of this year, with the overall requirement of such 5.5-tonne class choppers by the IAF and Army pegged at 160 as of now.
“The LCH is the lightest attack helicopter in the world, designed and developed by HAL to meet the specific and unique requirements of Indian armed forces. It reflects the crucial role of HAL in `Atma Nirbhar Bharat’,” said HAL chairman R Madhavan on Wednesday.
Such LCHs figure in the negative arms import list announced by the defence ministry on Sunday, under which acquisition of 101 weapon systems and platforms from abroad will be progressively banned from December 2020 to December 2025, in a bid to bolster the fledgling domestic defence production sector.
The Indian LCHs, which are currently equipped with 70mm rockets and chin-mounted cannons, do not yet have anti-tank and air-to-air missiles. The LCH, however, has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land at forward bases in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region, 4,700 meters above sea level with a 500-kg load.
IAF vice chief
Harjit Singh Arora also flew in the LCH, which is powered by two Shakti engines, during his visit to forward air bases in Ladakh last week. “He took off in the LCH from a high-altitude location to a forward area for a simulated attack on a high-altitude target,” said HAL.
“This was followed by a landing at one of the most treacherous helipads in the region. The LCH successfully demonstrated its quick deployment prowess to forward locations in extreme temperatures,” it added.
The LCH is “a potent weapon platform” because of its state-of-the-art systems and highly accurate weapons that are capable of hitting any type of target by day or night.
It has capability to carry an adequate weapon load at high-altitudes under varied conditions, said HAL, which hopes to achieve “peak production” of 30 such choppers per year.
HAL says the special features of LCH include sleek and narrow fuselage, tri-cycle crashworthy landing gear, crashworthy and self-sealing fuel tanks, armor protection and low visibility features to make it “lethal, agile and survivable”.