The first indigenously built Light Combat Helicopter, designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) performed its inaugural flight in Bangalore on Sunday. The Defence Minister A. K. Antony, his deputy, Pallam Raju, and the Chief of Air Staff, P.V. Naik, who were scheduled to participate in the inaugural, did not take part in the function because of the disaster in Mangalore on Saturday.

The project to develop the LCH, which builds on many features of the HAL-designed Advanced Light Helicopter (Dhruv), was approved in 2006. A “full-scale mock-u” of the craft was displayed at the aero India show in 2007.

R.K. Singh, Secretary, Defence (Production) said LCH would receive Initial Operational Certification by December and Final Operational Certification soon.

Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, Vice-Chief of the Air Staff, congratulated the HAL team for having developing the LCH for the Indian Air Force, which was “desperate to have such a machine in its inventory.” He complimented the HAL team that designed the rotary wing design of the LCH, which gives the craft its high degree of maneuverability. “Delivering a craft like this is no mean achievement when seen in the international context,” Air Marshal Barbora said. He suggested that the aircraft could be exported “to friendly countries.”

The Chairman of HAL Ashok Naik said the LCH project has been undertaken with an outlay of Rs. 376 crores, of which, 10 per cent has been borne by the public sector company. The company has an order book worth Rs. 80,000 crores, he said.