While since the Kargil conflict the Indian security community had insisted on the need for an advanced light combat helicopter, the need for such an aircraft was acutely felt during the sudden attack by Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley. Thus, the induction of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) named Prachanda into the Indian Air Force in Jodhpur on October 3 by Rajnath Singh, Indian Minister of Defence, fills an important gap in the defense sector. defense. The Indian Army had received 4 (one more to be donated later) of these helicopters a week ago. This helicopter meets an important need for the protection of our assets and our territory at high altitude such as Siachen, DBO etc.
The special characteristics of this aerial vehicle distinguish it from other helicopters. ACM Chaudhari, the head of the Indian Air Force, said this LCH is equal to or better than similar attack helicopters available around the world.
The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the first contract for 15 LCH (10 for IAF and 5 for Indian Army) at a price of Rs 3887 crore along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore . In March 2022 Indian Air Force and Hindustan Aeronautical Limited signed the contract and in June 2022 the operating helicopter unit called Dhanush was lifted. According to CB Ananthakrishnan, President and Managing Director (CMD) of Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL), export plans for this helicopter are also in the works. The main features of the LCH are:
- It is designed and developed locally by Hindustan Aeronautical Limited.
- It is primarily designed for high-altitude operations in all-weather combat conditions. It can fly at 5,000 meters altitude. According to the Minister of Defense, it is the only helicopter capable of flying at this altitude. It can be deployed in high-altitude bunker-busting operations and can provide invaluable support to ground forces. This adds to our capabilities to operate in inaccessible regions.
- It is a very light helicopter; its weight is 5,800 kg. It can therefore take off at high altitude with all its payloads. It can carry a payload of 700 kg. Its length is 15.7 m, its wingspan 13.2 m and its height 4.3 m. It can carry two pilots.
- It has a top speed of 268 km/h and a maximum range of 550 km. It is powered by two Shakti engines. Its autonomy is 3 hours and 10 minutes.
- Its armament capabilities are significant: it is armed with a 20 mm nose cannon, 70 mm rockets, a ‘Dhruvastra’ anti-tank guided missile and a ‘Mistral-2’ air-to-air missile from MBDA which has a maximum intercept range of 6.5 km. A 20mm cannon is mounted in the nose of the LCH, which is capable of firing in any direction at 110 degrees. It can fire 750 rounds per minute.
- Above all, he has a number of stealth abilities. It can evade detection by enemy radars and can dodge incoming missiles. If the LCH is targeted by an enemy helicopter or fighter jet, it is able to dodge it and return fire. It has capabilities to perform combat search and rescue (CSAR), destroy enemy air defense (DEAD), counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, and against slow moving aircraft and remotely piloted aircraft ( RPA).
- Several advanced key aviation technologies are used in this helicopter, such as glass cockpit, impact-resistant lower structure, anti-resonance isolation system, integrated architecture and display system, infrared suppression system and the helmet-mounted display system. The entire body of the helicopter is armored, due to which there will be very little effect of enemy fire on it. Significantly, the rotors of the helicopter are able to withstand enemy fire. The narrow fuselage with a tandem cockpit configuration makes the LCH extremely maneuverable and agile.
In the context of India, given the distinct advantages of greater firepower, excellent maneuverability and greater range of operations than other helicopters, as well as stealth capabilities, the role of this helicopter would be essential at higher altitudes. It improves India’s ability to control the air and ground intrusion of our enemies. It can be effectively deployed to prevent the use of our airspace by hostile air or ground forces. It can also conduct lightning airstrikes to complement the army’s offensive and defensive operations. Additionally, it can also be deployed to destroy terrorist infrastructure behind enemy lines. In any conflict, if air superiority is not decisive, it is certainly an essential element, hence the role of this helicopter which would prove invaluable. Prachanda’s enthronement is a milestone not only in the history of the Air Force but in the history of the entire Indian Armed Forces. It is also a milestone in the annals of indigenous capacity development in the defense sector.
However, India needs to work more to make it fully indigenous. Currently, only 45% of indigenous content by value is used. This should be gradually increased. Additionally, greater expertise in critical technologies relevant to engine development is imperative given the rapidly changing regional security environment. The lessons learned from the failure of the Kaveri project must be internalized. Although our defense import bills have declined in recent years, the need to be fully self-sufficient in defense cannot be underestimated.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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