Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) received the Services Letter of Intent for the manufacture of 12 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH), which were designed and developed locally. Meanwhile, nine Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) have been manufactured against the sanction of 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) variants and are being handed over to the Services.
In another development, the Army is in negotiations to acquire another 11 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from the United States.
“The manufacturing work has started. Two LUHs are in advanced stages of completion,” a HAL source confirmed to The Hindu.
In addition, the request for quotation (RFQ) for the larger order of LUH RFQ has also been released, a source said.
HAL is in the process of responding to the price request and expects to address related issues in one to two years, the source said. Last November, the Defense Acquisition Board approved the purchase of an initial batch of 12 LUHs, six for the Army and Air Force.
In June, the Army raised its first LCH squadron in Bengaluru which will move to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Command when completed next year. “Of the 15 LSPs ordered, nine LCHs have been produced. They are in the acceptance phase,” HAL sources said.
Currently, the military plans to acquire about 111 LUH and 95 LCH, officials said. Army sources had said seven LCH units were planned for a combat role in the mountains, each having 10 helicopters. The IAF is also expected to raise its first LCH squadron in the coming months.
More Apache attack helicopters
The Cabinet Committee on Security had previously sanctioned the purchase of 39 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the United States. Following this, the IAF had inducted 22 Apaches purchased under an agreement signed in September 2015. The government had decided that any further Apache purchases would go to the military. With this in mind, India signed a deal for six additional Apaches at a cost of around $800 million in February 2020.
Deliveries that were supposed to start in the first half of 2023 have been delayed by about 10 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a defense official said. They are now expected to arrive in early 2024, an army source said.
Additionally, the military is advocating for the remaining 11 Apaches out of the 39 sanctioned, the official added. A senior official from the aircraft manufacturer Boeing had recently confirmed that they were in talks with the Indian army for additional Apaches.
The army has three aviation brigades in Leh, Missamari and Jodhpur. It operates approximately 145 indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), 75 of which are Rudra-equipped variants. Another 25 ALH Mk-IIIs are on order and should be inducted within two years. The Army operates around 190 Cheetah, Chetak and Cheetal helicopters and desperately needs their replacements, while the IAF operates nearly 140.
In total, the IAF operates a wide range of approximately 500 rotary platforms, including approximately 90 Mi-17s, over 130 Mi-17V5s, over 70 ALHs including armed variants, 22 Apaches, a squadron of Mi-35 attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopters.
In the utility helicopter category, the Army and IAF together require over 400 helicopters and are intended to replace the vintage Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in service. This requirement was to be met jointly by the LUH and the 200 Ka-226T utility helicopters to be built through technology transfer from Russia.
However, the Ka-226T deal was delayed for several years due to indigenization issues and with the LUH now ready and the geopolitical situation due to the war in Ukraine the deal is about to be scrapped, officials said. The LUH has done well, but it will take time for enough numbers to arrive, army sources said.