What are the role of Indian LCH and Apache Helicopter ?

The HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is an Indian multi-role attack helicopter designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It is the world’s lightest attack helicopter and its flight ceiling is the highest among all attack helicopters. It has been ordered for both the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. Currently LCH is in full speed production for Indian Air Force (65 on order) and Indian Army (114 on order).

Apache is a muli role attack helicopter from US. Currently, Indian airforce has 22 AH-64Es Longbow in inventory and 6 AH-64Es on order for Indian army.

FULL DETAILS : HAL LCH : Light Combat Helicopter Of India

Is there any similarities between LCH and Apache ?

There is nothing similar between the HAL LCH & AH-64E Apache apart from:

  • Crew tandem seating.
  • Systems/Pylons/weapons layout.
  • The primary mission of being an attack helicopter.

Aircraft are tailor made with a specific purpose catering to specific roles as required by the user & not why some other country has some other aircraft & we need the same.

Let’s understand both these helicopters:

This helicopter was developed when IAF saw the need of an attack helicopters during the Kargil conflict when to provide close air support to troops in combat zones in the mountains, the Mi-8s were modified to adapt 57 mm S-5 rockets & used. They were not agile, were slow-moving, large & easy targets in the sky & IAF suffered major casualty when a Mi-8 was shot down by a surface to air missile from the enemy. Post that loss, attacks from fixed-wing aircraft began.

This gave birth to HAL LCH. HAL Light Combat Helicopter is built with the purpose of providing heavy fire support to troops deployed in the high altitude region. It has been tested to operate with significant weapons load at 15,800 feet which is pretty high as per helicopter standards. Also LCH has a stealthy narrow fuselage made up of composites, enabling it to evade enemy radar until it gets very close.

In addition to these roles, the LCH is intended to be used for a variety of operational purposes, such as

  • To perform air defence against slow-moving aerial targets, including both manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
  • Participation in counter-insurgency operations (COIN) and Counter Surface Force Operations (CSFO)
  • The destruction of enemy air defence operations and wider offensive use during urban warfare conditions
  • Escort to special heliborne operations (SHBO)
  • Support of combat search and rescue (CSAR) operations
  • Armed aerial scouting duties.

The AH-64 Apache was built with a sole purpose in mind: Anti-armour role.

The AH-64 was designed to bust tanks, armoured fighting vehicles & perform in front-line environments, and to operate at night or day and during adverse weather conditions close to ground troops. The AH-64 has significant systems redundancy to improve combat survivability. It is due to this nature of the operation, AH-64 Apache was envisaged to come under a lot of ground fire & hence the helicopter has 1,110 kg of armour protection.

You see the two aircraft are totally different, filling two different roles. Though in appearance, they might seem similar, but there are a lot of differences:

  • HAL LCH weights half as much as an AH-64E Apache. LCH weights 2,300 kg empty whereas the empty weight of Apache is 5,165 kg. In fact, a loaded LCH weights as much as an unloaded Apache. The weight of LCH is purposely kept low to facilitate the high altitude operations, were due to thin air, the weight carrying capability reduced significantly.
  • Apache is heavily armoured using titanium, boron carbide & Kevlar & can withstand direct hits from 23 mm cannon rounds. This high level of protection is provided because Apache operates near to the ground in proximity to enemy forces where the possibility of being hit is more. LCH comparatively has lighter armour able to withstand small arms fire from a standoff distance.
  • HAL LCH has lighter firepower as compared to the Apache. The LCH has a 20 mm cannon whereas the Apache has a massive 30 mm Chain gun. The 70 mm rocket pods in LCH carries 12 rockets whereas Apache rocket pods carry 19 hydra rockets. Also, in one pylon Apache can carry 4 Hellfire missiles whereas the LCH can carry only 2 Helina missiles on each pylon.

Notice the round-shaped rocket pods of the Apache. Capacity: 19 rockets each.

Notice the diamond-shaped rocket pods of the LCH. They can hold 12 rockets each.

  • Last but not the least, LCH is the world’s first operational stealth attack helicopter. It can get very near to enemy forces without being detected, thanks to the angled fuselage & use of composites. It deflects the incoming radar wave, giving back a very small radar signature. A narrow fuselage helps to reduce the frontal RCS also. On the other hand, the Apache doesn’t have any such feature. It is not built to hide from the enemy but to face it directly.

The graphical representation shows the relatively thinner width of the fuselage of the LCH.

This is how the two aircraft compare against each other. Though they might appears similar in appearance, they are very different helicopters & the IAF will be using both of them in two very different roles.

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