A prototype of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), currently under
development by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Army
(IA) and Indian Air Force (IAF), recently completed hot and high
altitude trials, the Business Standard reports.
5.8-ton third and final LCH prototype performed several landing and
take-off tests at military outposts in Ladakh and, for the first-time
ever for an attack-helicopter, landed at a military base in the disputed
Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir.
“The flight trials at Leh
have established hover performance and low speed handling
characteristics of the helicopter under extreme weather conditions at
different altitudes (3200 to 4800 m). During the trials, the helicopter
and systems performed satisfactorily,” according to the chairman of HAL,
T. Suvarna Raju.
In February 2015, the LCH successfully
completed “cold weather flight trials” in Ladakh and in June “hot
weather flight trials” around Jodhpur. “The performance and handling
qualities of the helicopter have been established for basic
configuration (with electro-optical pod, rocket launchers, turret gun
and air-to-air missile launchers)… Further development activities are
under progress and the weapon firing trials are planned during in the
middle of 2016,” according to a HAL press release quoted in the Business
The LCH, which made its maiden flight in May 2010, has
been specifically developed in response to the lack of an attack
helicopter capable of performing high-altitude operations during the
1999 Kargil War. Consequently, the LCH, a derivative of the HAL Dhruv
helicopter, has been primarily designed for high-altitude warfare–HAL
and French engine-maker, Turbomeca jointly designed a special engine
optimized for extreme altitudes–and has an operational ceiling limit of
6,000–6,500 meters (19,700–21,300 feet).
However, the LCH can be
used for a host of different mission sets including air defense (against
UAVs), battlefield surveillance, as well as general counterinsurgency
and combat search and rescue operations. It can also be configured for
anti-submarine and anti-surface vessel warfare.
attack helicopter’s weapon suite includes a 20 mm French Giat-Nexter
turret gun, four Belgium-made 70 mm anti-tank guided missiles (or, once
operational, the Indian Helina anti-tank missile, which is still in
development) and MBDA Mistral-2 air-to-air missiles. SAAB South Africa
is providing the LCH’s electronic warfare suite.
So far the
Indian Army’s Army Aviation Corps (AAC) has ordered 114 helicopters and
the IAF 65. However, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reports that this number
is slated to increase to 180 given that the army wants to deploy the new
helicopter to all of its 13 corps and other formations. Once the LCH
obtains initial operational clearance (IOC), it is slated to enter
serial production at the end of 2015.
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