The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army are both set to get the indigenous Light Combat Helicopters from the state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), pending contract finalization of 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) of LCH. Confirming this to Financial Express Online, source said “HAL has received Letter of Intent (LoI) for 5 LCH for IAF and 5 for the Indian Army. The company has produced and signaled out 3 LSP Light Combat Helicopters for the IAF. Same is going to be subjected to customer acceptance and training shortly. In the current year we are producing 4 LCH for the Army and 2 for IAF. Remaining 6 LCH will be produced next year. The training for the first batch of IAF personnel has commenced at Helicopter Division (Bengaluru).”
As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier, IAF and the Indian Army together have a requirement of around 160 LCHs – in this 65 will be for IAF and the balance for the Army. In 2020, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had put its stamp of approval over the proposal for an initial batch of 15 LCHs.
In anticipation of orders from the two services, the HAL had already initiated the production of Limited Series Production (LSP) helicopters. The IAF had issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 15 LSP helicopters which included 10 for IAF and for the Indian Army 5. Based on the RFP, the cost negotiations and technical evaluations were carried out.
In August 2020, during the ongoing standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, the IAF had decided to deploy two LCH for operations at high altitude. These helicopters are expected to meet the demands of the armed forces and to support the IAF in missions at short notice. Last year, the helicopters had successfully displayed their quick deployment prowess to forward locations in extreme temperatures and treacherous terrains.
Need for LCH Helicopters
There are around 90 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and 75 Rudra, weaponized ALH, helicopters in service with the Indian Army. All these helicopters have not only been designed but developed too by HAL. There are 160 Cheetah and Chetak Utility Helicopters which need to be replaced urgently.
The Indian Army has pitched for attack helicopters of its own to operate with its strike Corps. Presently, the IAF provides close air support to the Indian Army. As has been reported earlier, soon the Indian Army will get its own Apache attack helicopters from the US based Boeing Company in 2023. The Army will get six helicopters, the deal for which was firmed up last year for USD 800 million.
The IAF is already flying 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from the US, and also has Mi-25 and Mi-35 Russian attack helicopters. These two are in the process of being phased out gradually.