India buys 15 Light Combat Helicopters at $34 Million per unit

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met in New Delhi on Wednesday and approved the procurement of 15 Light Combat  (LCH) for Rs 3,887 crore, or about Rs 260 crore each. The CCS also approved the creation of infrastructure worth Rs 377 crore.

“Light Combat  Limited Series Production (LSP) is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured, state-of-the-art modern combat  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,” announced a Ministry of Defence (MoD) press release today.

Beyond the preliminary order for 15 LSP helicopters, the  (IAF) and the army have jointly projected a SP requirement for 162 LCHs: 65 for the IAF and 97 for the army.

The 15 LCHs in the LSP order will be test-flown by IAF and army pilots to gauge their performance and capability. These pilots will provide operational performance feedback and recommend incremental improvements that HAL can introduce into the LCHs that will be mass-manufactured on a final production line.

Stating that the LCH would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of  (IAF) and the Indian Army, the MoD stated: “This helicopter is equipped with requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, high altitude performance and around-the-clock, all-weather combat capability to perform roles of Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (DEAD), Counter Insurgency (CI) operations, (operations) against slow moving aircraft and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), high altitude bunker busting operations, CI operations in jungle and urban environments and support to ground forces.”

The MoD announced that the LCH has integrated stealth features such as reduced visual, aural, radar and infrared (IR) signatures and crash resistant features for better survivability.

Key aviation technologies, such as a glass cockpit and composite airframe structure have been indigenised in the LCH.

The MoD announced that the manufacturing of LCH by HAL will boost the Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative and India’s defence industry. “Production of LCH will reduce import dependence for combat helicopters in the country,” said the MoD, taking note of the recent purchase of 22 Apache AH-64E from The Boeing Company.

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.

Talking to Business Standard, HAL’s chief, R Madhavan, said 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.

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 (ATGM) 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.

The LCH is well suited for anti-tank role wherein it can fly low and fast to attack enemy armour columns and destroy them. As per HAL, it is also suitable for scout role wherein it can fly ahead of advancing columns of the Army and detect enemy presence. It is also suitable for air defence roles and destruction of enemy air defence assets. It can also be used in urban warfare missions and combat search snd rescue operations.

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