The impetus for the development of the LCH came in the form of the Kargil ധąɾ, a conflict fought between India and neighbouring Pakistan in 1999.
The Indian defense industry has made great technological leaps as it can be built from warships, aircraft, missiles, and now attack helicopters. One of their new products is the LCH attack helicopter. The LCH has been deployed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited since 2006 to develop a line of helicopters to meet Indian Air Force’s requirement of a dedicated light helicopter for combat operations. This new helicopter will be equipped to both the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. The type is also intended to be sold upon the export market, since 2015, HAL has been seeking other customers for the LCH. The cost per unit is estimated at 20.2 million dollars.
The impetus for the development of the LCH came in the form of the Kargil ധąɾ , a conflict fought between India and neighbouring Pakistan in 1999, which revealed the Indian armed forces to lack a suitable armed rotorcraft capable of operating unrestricted in the high-altitude theatre. Accordingly, both HAL and the Indian armed forces commenced explorative efforts towards the defining of a conceptual combat helicopter to perform in this role. LCH, referred to simply as the Light Combat Helicopter, was born in such a context. The first prototype made its first flight in 2010. By 2013 a total of 4 prototypes were built. During mid 2016, the LCH was recognised as having completed its performance trials, paving way for the certification of its basic configuration.
In early 2019, HAL announced that it had successfully conducted an air-to-air missile firing on a moving aerial target at a test range in Chandipur, Odisha. The recent test firing marks the official completion of ωɛλρσɳs trials and the readiness for operational induction by the Indian Air Force and Indian Army of India’s first indigenously built and designed helicopter gunship. The Light Combat Helicopter is expected to enter service in the near future. Indian Army plans to acquire 114 of these helicopters and Indian Air Force – 65 units. However, the exact time has not been set, because the delay of domestic ωɛλρσɳs projects is a chronic disease of this South Asian nation.
The origin of LCH is from the HAL Dhruv multi-purpose helicopter, with many components similar to the engine or propeller to reduce production and maintenance costs. LCH has been developed to perform both the anti-infantry and anti-armour missions. 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, participation in counter-insurgency operations and Counter Surface Force Operations, the destruction of enemy air defence operations and wider offensive use during urban ωλɾʄλɾɛ conditions, escort to special heliborne operations, support of combat search and rescue operations, and armed aerial scouting duties.
LCH was designed with a narrow and angular fuselage to increase stealth, armour protection, and is equipped to conduct day-and-night combat operations. According to reports, the protective measures included in the rotorcraft includes a digital camouflage system, an infrared suppressor fitted to the engine exhaust, and an exterior covered by canted flat panels to minimise its radar cross-section. It is furnished with an integrated dynamic system, including a hingeless main rotor and bearing-less tail rotor, which works in conjunction with an anti-resonance isolation system to dampen vibrations.
The LCH has a glass cockpit accommodating two crew, pilot and co-pilot in tandem configuration, its flat glass panels in order to reduce light reflections. The cockpit is equipped with multifunction displays, target acquisition and designation systems, and a digital video recorder to capture footage of the battlefield for use in debriefing. A helmet-mounted target system controls the turret guns mounted on the helicopter’s fuselage.
The LCH is equipped with an integrated data link, which enables the type to participate in network-centric operations by facilitating the transfer of mission data to other platforms, comprising both airborne and ground-based elements. The onboard sensor suite is Elbit CoMPASS, produced locally by Bharat Electronics Limited. It consists of a CCD camera, a forward looking infrared imaging sensor, a laser rangefinder and a laser designator to facilitate target acquisition under all-weather conditions, including under nighttime conditions. Other technical features inherited by LCH from HAL Dhruv include a crashworthy tricycle landing gear arrangement for better survivability, crashworthy self-sealing fuel tanks, armour protection, and a low visibility profile.
The helicopter is powered by two HAL/Turbomeca Shakti turboshaft engines, each of which can generate up to 1,384 Shaft horsepower. Main and tail rotor diameters are 13.3m and 2.05m respectively. The LCH has a max speed of 269 km/h and never-exceed speed is 330km/h. It can climb at a rate of 12m/s, and the service ceiling is 6,500m. The operating range of this helicopter is 550 km.
Born as an attack helicopter, the LCH will be equipped with the most modern ωɛλρσɳs that India can afford. It is armed with a chin-mounted, twin-barrel M621 20mm cannon, both gun and THL 20 turret were developed in France by Nexter. This attack helicopter has detachable stub wings, it can carry various rockets, These include 70mm rockets, MBDA air-to-air, air-to-surface and anti-radiation missiles, and Helina anti-tank guided missiles.
Explosive ordnance includes iron bombs, cluster bombs and grenade launchers. The combination with the helmet-mounted targeting systems makes it a dangerous ωλɾ machine, able to conduct day and night combat operations. The LCH is protected via an extensive electronic ωλɾʄλɾɛ suite which is provided by the South African division of Saab Group; this suite comprises various defensive elements to guard against several different threats, these include a radar warning receiver, laser warning receiver and a missile approach warning system.
Owning many advanced features while the unit price is only $20.2 million, half as cheap as Mi-28 costing $40 million, LCH has proved to be a serious competitor in the race to gain the position of a new generation attack helicopter in the export market.
However, LCH has not officially entered the mass production stage while its rivals have experienced battlefield combat. In addition, the multinational origin of the aircraft’s equipment is also detrimental to its use as well as maintenance. Therefore, the opportunity of LCH in the export market at the present time is still a question mark.