New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government Wednesday approved the procurement of 15 indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) for the Army and the Indian Air Force. Already deployed in Ladakh, many more choppers are expected to be put in action in the coming years.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met Wednesday, cleared the procurement of the Limited Series Production variants of the helicopters for Rs 3,887 crore, including infrastructure sanctions.
Equipped with a 20 m gun, 70 mm rockets and air-to-air missiles, besides air-to-ground variants, the HAL-manufactured LCH will complement the heavier 22 Apache attack choppers purchased from the US.
According to sources in the defence and security establishment, the Army and the IAF have a combined requirement of about 160 twin engine LCH which have the capability to operate even in Siachen, the only combat helicopter to do so in the world.
According to HAL, the LCH boasts a maximum speed of 268 km/h, a range of 550 km and an oblique climb rate of 12 m/s.
“This helicopter is equipped with requisite agility, maneuverability, extended range, high altitude performance and around-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, against slow moving aircraft and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), high altitude bunker busting operations, Counter Insurgency operations in jungle and urban environments and support to ground forces,” the ministry said in a statement.
Forming part of the broader goal towards ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, the Modi government’s approval of the LCH was long awaited.
The LCH’s origins can be traced to the HAL’s development during the late 2000s. But the production of these choppers had been beset with numerous delays, before it conducted its first test flight in 2010. But the Ministry of Defence did not officially order any LCH from HAL until November 2016 when it purchased 15 choppers for limited series production.
According to a report in the Hindustan Times, no contract has officially been awarded by the government before, but HAL had been manufacturing and delivering LCH to the Army and the IAF since September 2021.