India will shortly test fly the indigenously designed and built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), which will augment the IAF’s fleet of small and highly manoeuvrable rotary flying machines.

A ‘baby’ of the Bangalore-headquartered defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the first prototype of LCH is expected to take to the skies between December 26 and December 29, a senior HAL official told PTI here on Monday.

HAL has already bagged a firm order to deliver 65 LCH to the IAF and 114 to the Army, company sources said.

Unlike HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) “Dhruv” which has been described as broad and bloated, the LCH is very, very sleek. The new light chopper is currently undergoing functional tests, and is expected to be ready for ground run by December 24.

“It (LCH) is quite different from ALH in terms of configuration and structure,” the official closely associated with the project, said on condition of anonymity.

HAL hopes to obtain certification for LCH in 2012-13, and the delivery of the machines is expected from 2014-15.

LCH would also have a weaponised version, similar to ALH.

“There will be rocket pods, a machine gun and also an air-to-air missiles in the combat version of LCH. But in the first prototype all these features will not be there,” the official said.

HAL has also started design of a light observation helicopter (LOH) which would eventually replace the ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters which have been in service since 1978. “We have got about 600 of them (Cheetah and Chetak) in service now. They are reaching the end of their technical life as they have flown 60,000 hours or more,” he said.

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