Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be in Uttar Pradesh's Jhansi today (19 November) for election campaigning, will formally hand over the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The LCH is India's first indigenously-built dedicated combat helicopter. At least two airframes have been in use with the IAF in Ladakh since last year. The helos have been flying armed patrol sorties in the region amid reports of China’s unwillingness to move back its forces from some of the areas it occupied along the Line of Actual Control in May 2020.
The helicopter, developed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, has undergone testing both in super high altitude areas along the northern border with Tibet and the plains along the western border with Pakistan.
The helo has undergone testing in Ladakh, where India and China ate locked in a standoff, and on the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world where Indian and Pakistani troops have faced off since 1984.
Equipped with Shakti engine developed by HAL with French engine-maker Safran (earlier called Turbomeca), the 5.5-tonne helicopter has been designed to operate at an altitude of up to 20,000 feet.
The combat helicopter comes armed with a cannon mounted below its nose, capable of piercing light armour with a thousand 20-millimetre bullets each minute. It carries 70-millimetre rockets on pods on either side. It can also be armed with an air-to-air missile and an anti-armour missile.
The LCH can also be armed with an air-to-air missile and an anti-armour missile. However, both these weapons are currently missing on the LCH, and it is solely dependent on its chin-mounted gun and 70-mm rockets for offensive operations.
MBDA’s Mistral air-to-air missile has been test-fired from the LCH, and the HAL has procured and integrated Mistral-specific launchers on the platform. However, the missile is not yet part of the arsenal.
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