India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is gearing up to hand over the first batch of three Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The helicopters are part of the 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) helicopters approved for the Army and the IAF. It was expected to be signed in Q1 2021, but was delayed due to the second wave of the pandemic.
“HAL has received Letter of Intent for five Air force and five Army LCH for delivery pending contract finalisation of 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) LCH. HAL has produced and signalled out three LSP LCH for the IAF. Same will be subjected to customer acceptance and training shortly,” a HAL source was quoted as saying by The Hindu on Monday.
The company source added that it will produce four LCH for army and two more for the IAF in 2021. Remaining six helicopters will be produced next year.
The IAF has put forward a requirement for 65 LCH and the Army for 114 helicopters. Of the 15 LSP helicopters, 10 are for the IAF and five for the Army.
Light Combat Helicopter (LCH)
Weighing 5.5 tonnes, the LCH is the lightest attack helicopter in the world. Its flight ceiling is the highest among all attack helicopters. LCH has been designed and developed by the HAL to meet the specific and unique requirements of the Indian armed forces and can operate at heights of 12,000 feet.
In terms of its basic configuration, the LCH possesses a relatively narrow fuselage and is equipped with stealth profiling, armour protection, and is equipped to conduct day-and-night combat operations. According to reports, the protective measures included in the rotorcraft includes a digital camouflage system, an infrared (IR) suppressor fitted to the engine exhaust, and an exterior covered by canted flat panels to minimise its radar cross-section (RCS).
Equipped with a two-person tandem cockpit to accommodate a pilot and co-pilot/gunner, it has been developed to perform both the anti-infantry and anti-armour missions.
The LCH had inherited many of its technical features from one of HAL's earlier indigenous rotorcraft, commonly known as the HAL Dhruv. Shared elements between the two helicopters include the power-plant used, both being powered by a pair of co-developed HAL/Turbomeca Shakti-1H1 derived from Safran Ardiden turboshaft engines, albeit fitted with infrared suppressors. The features that are unique to the rotorcraft includes its narrow fuselage, a crashworthy tricycle landing gear arrangement, crashworthy self-sealing fuel tanks, armour protection, and a low visibility profile.
The LCH is furnished with a glass cockpit which accommodates an Integrated Avionics and Display System (IADS) which used an array of multifunction displays in conjunction with the onboard target acquisition and designation (TADS) system. A prominent element of the TADS system is the helmet mounted sight (HMS), which serves as the principal instrument for targeting and triggering the rotorcraft's armaments. The LCH is protected via an extensive electronic warfare suite which is provided by the South African division of Saab Group; this suite comprises various defensive elements to guard against several different threats, these include a radar warning receiver (RWR), laser warning receiver (LWR) and a missile approach warning (MAW) system.
The LCH is equipped with an integrated data link, which enables the type to participate in network-centric operations by facilitating the transfer of mission data to other platforms, comprising both airborne and ground-based elements. This networking capable is said to facilitate operational cooperation and force multiplication practices.
The onboard sensor suite is Elbit CoMPASS, produced locally by Bharat Electronics Limited. It consists of a CCD camera, a forward looking infrared (FLIR) imaging sensor, a laser rangefinder and a laser designator to facilitate target acquisition under all-weather conditions, including under nighttime conditions.
The M621 cannon is incorporated in a Nexter-built THL 20 turret and integrated into a helmet-mounted sight. Various missiles can also be equipped upon the LCH; these include a maximum of four 70 mm anti-tank guided missiles – options are to include both foreign and Indian-built missiles, the latter in the form of the Helina anti-tank missile. In terms of air-to-air missiles, the LCH shall be capable of being armed with the MBDA Mistral 2 missile. Payloads of rockets are also available as offensive options for attacking targets with.