Home-grown ‘Prachanda’ light combat helicopter joins Indian Air Force fleet
Marking a major stepping stone to increasing the military’s combat power, especially on the high-altitude Himalayan battlefield, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh formally inducted a new, powerfully armed, high-altitude-capable helicopter into Indian Air Force (IAF) service on Monday.
Designed and developed ground-up by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the defence minister gave the new chopper — so far eponymously referred to as the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) — the name of Prachanda.
Inducted into the IAF’s newly raised 143 Helicopter Unit, a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) called it a “testimony to India’s growing prowess in indigenous design, development and manufacturing and a significant milestone towards ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance) in defence.”
In March, the Union Cabinet approved the procurement of 15 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) for Rs 3,887 crore, or about Rs 260 crore each. The Cabinet Committee on Security also approved the creation of infrastructure worth Rs 377 crore.
“Light Combat Helicopter Limited Series Production (LSP) is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured, state-of-the-art modern combat helicopter containing approximately 45 per cent indigenous content by value, which will progressively increase to more than 55 per cent for the SP (series production) version,” the MoD had announced.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari said the induction of the LCH adds greatly to the IAF’s combat potential, with its “versatility and offensive potential at par or better than most attack helicopters operating globally”.
Prachanda, which follows HAL’s Dhruv advanced light helicopter into service, is the defence public service undertaking’s indigenous Multi-Role Combat Helicopter designed and built for high-altitude operations.
That makes the LCH an ideal platform for providing infantry soldiers fire support in 15,000-16,000 feet high contested areas such as Depsang, Galwan, and the heights north and south of Pangong Tso where Indian soldiers were facing off against Chinese intruders.
Infantrymen at those oxygen-deprived altitudes cannot carry heavy weaponry for long distances, but a high-altitude attack helicopter would provide them with fire support, using its on-board, 20-millimetre turret gun, 70-millimetre rockets, and air-to-air missiles. It can also carry an anti-tank guided missile and the IAF is close to choosing one.
For delivering firepower accurately onto the enemy, the LCH is integrated with cutting-edge target-sighting systems, including an electro-optic pod and a helmet mounted display that allows a pilot to aim at a target just by looking at it.
The LCH’s pilots are protected by armoured panels, self-sealing fuel tanks, a bulletproof windshield, damage-tolerant rotor blades, and a main gearbox that can run for 30 minutes even after a bullet hits it and drains out the oil.
The LCH also has an electronic warfare system that detects incoming missiles and confuses them by scattering flares and chaff.
Light Combat Helicopters are already in the MoD’s list of defence products that are embargoed for import. “With its versatile features built in for combat missions, LCH has export capability,” said the MoD.
The military has already projected to HAL an eventual requirement of 65 Prachandas for the IAF and 97 for the army.
For such a small helicopter, the LCH is a formidable fighting machine. Its two pilots, who are seated one behind the other in a slim tandem cockpit, can choose from a menu of weapons that they fire using a helmet pointing system that lets a pilot aim at a target by looking at it.
HAL’s former chief, R Madhavan, told Business Standard that the LCH is the lightest attack helicopter in the world, designed specifically to meet the Indian Army’s requirements. The 5.8-tonne, twin-pilot helicopter can operate at altitudes of 20,000 feet, higher than any other attack helicopter in the world. Having demonstrated its ability to operate from 15,000-feet high helipads above the Siachen Glacier, the LCH is an ideal weapons platform for supporting the army in areas like Galwan and Daulat Beg Oldi in Eastern Ladakh, where our soldiers are confronting Chinese intruders.
- The Light Compact Helicopter (LCH) was inducted into the IAF’s newly raised 143 Helicopter Unit on Monday
- Prachanda is HAL’s indigenous Multi-Role Combat Helicopter designed and built for high-altitude operations.
- It is integrated with target-sighting systems, including an electro-optic pod and helmet mounted display that allows a pilot to aim at a target just by looking at it
- The LCH’s pilots are protected by armoured panels, self-sealing fuel tanks, a bulletproof windshield, damage-tolerant rotor blades, and a main gearbox that can run for 30 minutes even after a bullet hits it
- It also has an electronic warfare system that detects incoming missiles and confuses them by scattering flares and chaff
- The military has already projected to HAL an eventual requirement of 65 Prachandas for the IAF and 97 for the army
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