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From Mi-4 to Light Combat Helicopters: India’s Armed Forces’ copter fleet has come a long way

Source : Firstpost

From Mi-4 to Light Combat Helicopters: India’s Armed Forces’ copter fleet has come a long way
An Indian Air Force LSP variant Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) in action (File Photo)

The Indian Armed Forces received a big boost on Wednesday when the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the procurement of 15 indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) at a cost of Rs 3,887 crore.

In a statement, the defence ministry said that 10 helicopters will be for the Indian Air Force and five will be for the Indian Army. We take a look at the features of the LCH, why the LCH is much-needed and also the evolution of helicopters used by the Indian Armed Forces.

India’s Helicopter fleet

The Indian Armed Forces’ helicopter fleet has steadily been increasing over the past few years.

The need for helicopters in the Indian Air Force was realised in the 1960s and the IAF inducted first Mi-4 helicopters just before the India China War. The Soviet transport helicopter played a very significant role in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 and slowly became workhorse of the Indian Air Force.

Along with the Mi-4, the IAF also inducted the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-manufactured Chetak helicopters in 1962. The helicopter, originally called Aloutte III, was renamed to Chetak — after the legendary horse of the 16th Century Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap — for the Indian Armed Forces.

As time has passed and military requirements have changed, the IAF has inducted several other helicopters over the years.

Today, the Indian Air Force boasts of having the Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters, the Boeing-made CH-47F (I) Chinooks, which has boost the nation’s heavy heli-lift capability, the Mi-17 V5 — used to transport the prime minister domestically, the attack helicopters of Mil MI-25 and MI-35 and the Dhruv ALH in its inventory.

And the LCH was born…

The idea of the LCH came after the Kargil War of 1999. Experts noted that India at the time of the war had sorely felt the absence of an attack helicopter, which could operate in ultra-high altitudes.

It was in 2006 that HAL announced its intention to develop a LCH which could operate in the harsh desert conditions as well as the high altitude areas of Ladakh including the Siachen Glacier.

The first test flight of these helicopters came in 2010 after it was beset with numerous delays.

After its weapons trials in January 2019 and in February 2020, HAL announced that the LCH was ready for ‘operational induction’.

Features of the LCH

The LCH, designed and manufactured by HAL, is a truly ‘Make in India’ product built with private industry participation. As of date, the helicopter contains around 45 per cent indigenous content by value which will progressively increase to more than 55 per cent.

A multi-role attack helicopter, the LCH proudly boasts of being the only attack helicopter in the world, which can land and take-off at an altitude of 5000 m (16,400 ft) with considerable load of weapons.

Powered by two Shakti engines, the LCH has a maximum takeoff weight of 5,800 kg. The helicopter has a maximum speed of 268 km per hour and also a range of 550 km. When it comes to weaponry, the LCH is equipped with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, a 20 mm gun and 70 mm rockets.

HAL’s website also states that the LCH possesses several stealth features and has armour protection, night attack capability and crash worthy landing gear to give it better survivability.

LCH’s role in the IAF

The LCH can play a versatile role in the Armed Forces as it has the capability to conduct combat search and rescue and destruction of enemy air defence.

Additionally, the helicopter can also be deployed in high altitude bunker-busting operations, counter-insurgency operations in the jungle and urban environments and for supporting ground forces.

The Defence Ministry in a statement said, “It would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army.”

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