Several countries have shown interest in the indigenously-designed Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and enquired about it during the DefExpo 2022 event, said C.B. Ananthakrishnan, Chairman and Managing Director (CMD), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
On the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Mk1A, he said they are on track to begin deliveries to the Indian Air Force (IAF) by February 2024. “There are lot of enquiries for helicopters. Once we get a breakthrough order, there is lot of potential for further exports,” Mr. Ananthakrishnan said in response to a question from The Hindu at DefExpo-2022.
In addition to the LCA, Argentina is also interested in the LCH, while Philippines and Egypt have expressed interest in the ALH. “Argentina has been interested in the LCA and we have submitted a proposal,” he stated.
India has been giving helicopters, mostly ALH, to friendly countries in the Indian Ocean Region. The helicopter production capacity of HAL currently is 30 per year at Bengaluru and 30 at the new plant at Tumkur which can be scaled up to 60 per year when required, Mr. Ananthakrishnan explained. So we can ramp up the production rate to 90 helicopters per year, he noted.
Speaking about the deliveries of LCA-Mk1A, he said that 83 have been contracted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the trials are on track and the first delivery would be done by February 2024 while the bigger and more capable LCA-Mk2 is expected to take first flight by 2026-27.
“For Mark1A, we have positioned all material. The engines are available and certifications are going on simultaneously. We will be in position to deliver the first plane on schedule in February 2024. We are even trying to advance the delivery of the first plane by a month or so. This thing of delayed deliveries should be a thing of the past…,” Mr. Ananthakrishnan said.
As per schedule, three LCA-Mk1A should be delivered in the first year and 16 aircraft per year after that in five years.
Early September, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) give sanction for the development of the LCA-Mk2, a bigger and more capable fighter than the present one. “We will be able to deliver the first prototype in 2025-26 and have the first flight in 2026-27,” Mr. Ananthakrishnan added.
The CCS sanction includes a total development cost of ₹9,000 crore including the ₹2,500 crore that has already been spent. IAF has given commitment to procure six squadrons of LCA-MK2.
The LCA-Mk2 will be a heavier and much more capable aircraft than the current LCA variants and the LCA-Mk1A, 83 of which have been contracted under a ₹48,000 crore deal with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Mk2 is 1350mm longer featuring canards and can carry a payload of 6500kgs compared to 3500kgs the LCA-Mk1 can carry.
The Mk2 will be powered by the General Electric GE-414 engine which produces 98kN thrust compared to 84kN thrust of the GE-404 engine powering the LCA Mk1 and MK1A.