India-Made Light Combat Helicopter Named 'Prachand', Inducted Into IAF At Jodhpur

India-Made Light Combat Helicopter Named 'Prachand', Inducted Into IAF At Jodhpur

by Swarajya Staff - Oct 3, 2022 12:40 PM +05:30 IST
India-Made Light Combat Helicopter Named 'Prachand', Inducted Into IAF At Jodhpur Light Combat Helicopter (IAF/Twitter)

The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), the first dedicated attack helo (slang for helicopter) to be built in the country, has been named 'Prachand' and inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) today (3 October).

Ten LCHs joined the Air Force during a ceremony at the Jodhpur Air Force Station earlier today with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari in attendance.

The Cabinet Committee on Security, the highest decision-making body on national security affairs, had approved the purchase of 15 LCHs for the Indian Army and the IAF in March this year. The total cost of the aircraft was Rs 3,887 crore, including Rs 377 crore for infrastructure.

Ten of these helos will be operated by the IAF and five by the Indian Army.

LCH Capabilities

The LCH comes armed with a cannon, which is mounted below its nose. It is capable of piercing light armour with a thousand 20-millimetre (mm) bullets each minute. It also carries 70-mm rockets on pods on either side.

The helo can also be armed with air-to-air missiles to target slow-moving aircraft and anti-armour missiles to destroy tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

The 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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially handed over the helicopter to the IAF in Uttar Pradesh's Jhansi on 19 November last year.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the limited series production version of the LCH has around 45 per cent indigenous content by value.

In the series production version, indigenous content will be progressively increased to more than 55 per cent of the total value.

Army Rised First Squadron In June

The Indian Army quietly raised the first squadron of the LCH in Bengaluru on 1 June this year.

According to a news report, the squadron will be moved to the Eastern Command, which is responsible for India's borders in the east, including the frontier with Tibet in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The report adds that the Indian Army plans to have seven units of LCH, each with 10 helicopters. These units will be raised for deployment in the mountainous areas, including India's frontiers in the Himalayas.

The helicopter has been built to meet the requirements of the Indian military in high-altitude areas in Kashmir, Ladakh, and Arunachal.

It has demonstrated its capability of operating in high-altitude conditions during trials not only in Ladakh but also on the Siachen Glacier, often referred to as the 'world's highest battlefield'.

Two LCHs were deployed in Ladakh in August 2020 amid the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control.

Equipped with HAL's new-generation Shakti engine, co-developed with French engine-maker Safran, the 5.8-tonne helo has been designed to operate at an altitude of up to 20,000 feet.

The Need For LCH

"During the Kargil War of 1999, there was a need felt for armed attack helicopters capable of operating at high altitude. That's where the LCH fits in," former Indian Air Force chief Fali Homi Major, the only helicopter pilot to become Chief of Air Staff, wrote in 2020.

"The Mi-35, or for that matter the Apache too (we didn't have it then) wasn't capable of operating at those altitudes; and, as an ad-hoc measure, the armed version of the medium lift helicopter-the Mi-17 was used in this [Kargil] conflict," Air Commodore Nitin Sathe (Retd), a helicopter pilot, added in a recent article.

"The experts on warfighting have always felt that if we had a versatile attack helicopter in 1999, we would have pushed out the Pakistani intruders with lesser loss of lives and in an earlier timeframe," he added.

Since then, the IAF has received 22 Apache helicopters. The Army, too, has signed a deal for six of these "tank killers" built by American defence major Boeing. It is interested in acquiring at least 11 more Apaches.

However, the two services will have a significantly larger number of LCHs. Light Combat Helicopters are already on the import embargo list of the Defence Ministry, which lists the equipment that can't be imported from outside and have to be procured from the Indian defence industry.

The Army is looking at acquiring 114 LCHs over the next few years. The IAF has projected a requirement of 65 of these helos.

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