New Delhi: The indigenous Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) aka Prachand, the first squadron of which was raised by the Indian Air Force (IAF) Monday, lacks its main arsenal and protection suites for now and will take time to be fully operational.
The attack helicopter — also known as tank buster — will get its anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) only by mid-2023 and while it is integrated with air-to-air missile launchers, the missile has not been ordered yet, sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint.
The ATGM intended to be integrated with Prachand is the indigenous Helina, whose air force version is called Dhruvastra.
Sources explained that the testing of Helina/Dhruvastra, made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is currently on and that it will be integrated on the LCH by mid-next year as the plan is to fast track the process.
This means that the LCH, 15 of which were ordered in the initial lot of which 10 will go to the IAF and five to the Army, will be without tank busters for now.
While the helicopter comes integrated with the European air-to-air missile Mistral 2 launchers, manufactured by the MBDA, the missiles have not been ordered yet,
With a minimum range of 500 m, Mistral can take down airborne targets of up to 6.5 km.
The LCH is also armed with a 20 mm nose gun and 70 mm rockets, which are not guided ones.
Sources explained that work is still in progress and weapon systems will be integrated soon. They added that the 15 copters are the initial lot and the orders will go up once the systems are in place. It is estimated that the Army will go in for nearly 90 of them for its aviation arm to support ground operations, while the IAF will have a little less.
Lacks protection suite as of now
While helicopters have been often targeted by man-portable shoulder-fired missiles like the American Stingers, sources said that the LCH is designed to have systems in place to minimise such threats.
They added that the LCH has advanced features like helmet-mounted sights, forward-looking infra-red suppression systems, flares and chaff, and glass cockpits. It is also equipped with self-sealing fuel tanks, bullet-proof windshields, and damage-tolerant main rotor blades to withstand small arms fire.
However, the LCH is yet to get the electronic warfare suite unlike the weaponised version of Advanced Light Helicopter ‘Rudra’ which comes with Saab’s Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS) .
The IDAS system was first integrated with the Army and Air Force’s version of ALH Dhruv in 2005.
With radar warning receivers supported by the missile and laser warning, IDAS allows the aircraft’s sensors to detect radar missile and laser threats from any position relative to the aircraft.
Once a hostile target is detected, the system selects a semi or completely automated response with countermeasures dispensing to fool the incoming projectile or the radar.
The plan was to have an indigenous system on board the LCH designed by DRDO, but the process is yet to be completed, the sources said.
(Edited by Tony Rai)