The PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the first-ever contract for 15 indigenously designed and manufactured light combat helicopters for the IAF and Army at a cost of Rs.3,887 crore, along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore. Ten of these weaponised twin-engine choppers in the weight class of 5-8 tonne are meant for the IAF, while the Army will get five. The overall requirement for such helicopters is pegged at 160 in the coming years.
Designed and developed by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, two LCHs were even deployed in eastern Ladakh in 2020 to flight-evaluate them amidst the still-continuing military confrontation with China.
Even before the actual approval, HAL had launched the “limited series production” of the 15 LCHs at its Bengaluru facility in anticipation of the order. “The LSP choppers have 45% indigenous content by value, which will progressively increase to more than 55% for the next version,” a defence ministry official said.
With the contract to be inked on Thursday, as per the HAL. LCH is the only attack helicopter in its weight class in the world which can land and take-off at an altitude of 5,000-metre or 16,400-feet with a considerable load of weapons and fuel. Equipped with 70mm rockets, missiles and chin-mounted cannons, the MoD said the LCH has the requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, stealth features, high-altitude performance and around-the-clock all-weather capabilities for several combat missions.
They range from destruction of enemy air defences, anti-tank operations and high- altitude bunker busting missions to counter-insurgency and search and rescue combat roles. “The LCH would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of IAF and Army, the official said.
The LCH also had the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land at forward bases in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region, 4,700 meters above sea level with a 500-kg load. Such LCHs also figured in the defence ministry first negative arms import list or “positive indigenisation list” announced in August 2020, under which acquisition of 101 weapon systems and platforms from abroad will be progressively banned in the 2020-25 timeframe to bolster the fledgling domestic defence production sector.