Two light combat helicopters, produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, have been deployed in the Ladakh sector to support the Indian Air Force at short notice amid the border row with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), HAL said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is the lightest attack helicopter in the world designed and developed by HAL to meet the specific and unique requirements of Indian armed forces reflecting the crucial role of HAL in Atma Nirbhar Bharat.” said HAL chairman R Madhavan. The LCH figures on the government’s negative import list that seeks to ban the import of 101 different types of weapons, systems and ammunition over the next five years.
The state-run aircraft maker is expecting an order for 15 LCHs by the year-end --- 10 for the IAF and five for the army. The IAF and the army together need 160 LCHs.
The deployment of the twin-engine LCH in the Ladakh sector is symbolic in nature and an acknowledgement of the potential that the platform holds but it is yet to be fully weaponised to meet the IAF’s requirements, people familiar with the LCH programme said.
“The LCH holds a lot of promise but is not really capable of carrying out missions in its current configuration. It lacks anti-armour and air-to-air weapons. That’s work in progress,” the officials said. The LCH is equipped with 70mm rockets and a chin-mounted cannon.
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“The LCH may not be carrying its full weapons load as of today but when the weapon integration is complete, it will prove its worth,” said Air Marshal KK Nohwar (retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
During a visit to the Ladakh sector last week, IAF vice chief Air Marshal Harjit Singh Arora flew in one of the two LCHs from the Daulat Beg Oldie airbase, near the contested LAC.
Air Marshal Arora took off from a high-altitude location to a forward area for a simulated attack on a target, the HAL statement said. “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,” the statement said.
LCH is a potent platform because of its state-of-the-art systems and highly accurate weapons (it will eventually carry) that are capable of hitting any type of target by day or night, it added. The two LCHs deployed in Ladakh are prototypes and the ones that will be supplied to the IAF will come with the desired weapons capability, said an HAL official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
On the upcoming order for 15 LCH, the HAL said, “Technical evaluation and the price negotiations have been concluded and the order is expected shortly.
However, as a proactive measure HAL has launched limited series production in anticipation of orders at its Bengaluru facility.