The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, approved procurement of 15 indigenous Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Limited Series Production (LSP) at the cost of ₹3,887 crore along with infrastructure sanctions worth ₹377 crore.
Of the 15 helicopters, 10 are for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and five for the Army. The LCH is designed and developed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The IAF has sought 65 LCH and the Army 114.
“The LCH LSP is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured state–of–the–art modern combat helicopter containing approximately 45% indigenous content by value which will progressively increase to more than 55% for series production version,” the Defence Ministry said.
Noting that light combat helicopters are already in the import embargo list, the Ministry said production of the LCH will reduce import dependence for combat helicopters. “With its versatile features built in for combat missions, the LCH has export capability.”
HAL has produced the first of three LSP helicopters which are set to be delivered to the IAF very soon pending signing of the contract for the 15 LSP helicopters.
The LCH is equipped with requisite agility, maneuverability, extended range, high–altitude performance and round–the–clock, all–weather combat capability to perform roles of Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (DEAD), counter–insurgency (CI) operations in jungle and urban environments in support to ground forces, against slow moving aircraft and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), high–altitude bunker busting operations and would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of the Army and the Air Force, the statement said.
The technologies and systems compatible with stealth features such as reduced visual, aural, radar and infrared signatures and crashworthiness features for better survivability have been integrated in the LCH for deployment in combat roles catering to emerging needs for next three to four decades, the Ministry said. Several key aviation technologies like glass cockpit and composite airframe structure have been indigenised, it said.
The Army Aviation operates utility helicopters but does not have dedicated attack helicopters in its fleet, though it operates the weaponised version of the Advanced Light Helicopter.
The IAF operates the older Mi-25 and Mi-35 Russian attack helicopters which are in the process of being phased and has inducted 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from the U.S. The Army will also start receiving the Apache attack helicopters from early 2023 onwards, six of which have been contracted under an estimated $800–million deal from the U.S. in February, 2020.