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Indian Air Force gets new Light Combat Helicopter

Light Combat Helicopter in formation during Aero India 2021. (Photo courtesy of Saurav Chordia)
November 24, 2021

In a significant boost to Close Air Support (CAS) capabilities for the Indian Air Force and Indian Army, Minister Narendra Modi handed oversaw the transfer of indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) to the Indian Air Force (IAF) during India’s “Rashtriya Raksha Samarpan Parv” celebrations.

The celebrations mark the 75th year of India’s independence and are held at Jhansi from November 17 to 19. The ceremony was held on the eve of the holiday celebration and was hosted by the Indian Armed Forces and Ministry of Defense, with Modi and many high dignitaries and officials of armed forces present.

During the ceremony, The IAF CAS Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari symbolically accepted the LCH in presence of several dignitaries of the Indian defence establishment.

HAL LCH is the lightest combat helicopter in the world, built and designed by HAL’s in-house helicopter division. After the 1999 Kargil war, IAF realized the importance to have an effective helicopter-borne weapons platform to deliver precision strikes from the air in the high-altitudes of the Himalays. CAS operations have since been a priority for the Indian military.

Drawing from the lessons of the Kagil War, the Indian government officially sanctioned the design and development of LCH in October 2006, following a comprehensive feasibility study. That feasibility study looked at the requirements of the IAF and challenges India faced in border regions against adversaries during the war.

During the development course, the design of the helicopter went through various testing and engineering phases. Drawing from experience gained during the development of the HAL Dhruv utility helicopter, HAL designed the LCH with the ability to operate in the Himalayan region with ease. The helicopter can operate at high altitudes.

The Indian Army officially joined the LCH’s development process in December 2013 and requested 160 LCHs. Since the Indian Army has its own aviation corps, the separate unit of combat helicopters serves purposes like targeting terrorist hideouts in the region effectively.

HAL LCH is a sleek and stealthy combat helicopter with operative ability in treacherous high altitude terrain, powered by a turbo mecha engine. The helicopter is armed with rocket pods and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). HAL is expected to deliver large numbers of the twin-seater helicopters to replace Soviet-era Mi-35 Hinds which are running low in numbers and will eventually be scrapped.