IAF names HAL LCH helicopter as ‘Prachand’, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh takes flight: WATCH

After the Indian Air Force inaugurated the first fleet of Made-In-India Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), IAF named Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) LCH ‘Prachand’. Union Defense Minister Rajnath Singh makes a sortie at Jodhpur air base. The LCH was primarily developed for mountain warfare after a requirement for it was felt during the 1999 Kargil War. The 5.8-ton twin-engine gunship helicopter is armed with air-to-air missiles, 20mm gun turrets, missile systems , and other weapons. The fleet of four helicopters was inducted into the IAF at a ceremony at Jodhpur Air Force Station in the presence of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and other senior military officials.

The LCH would provide an effective platform for hitting enemy targets, tanks, bunkers, drones and other assets in high-altitude areas, military officials said. In his speech, Singh described the introduction of the domestically built LCH into the IAF as a “memorable occasion” for Indian defense production.

“The IAF has played an important role in protecting India’s sovereignty and I am confident that its overall capability will increase further after the introduction of LCH,” Singh said in his speech.

“We have focused on boosting the country’s defense production following certain developments… The country’s security was and will continue to be our number one priority,” he said. The Minister of Defense also complimented the IAF on regaining confidence in self-developed platforms.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said LCH’s capabilities are comparable to its class’ helicopters worldwide. The helicopters received a traditional water cannon salute that followed a multi-faith prayer ceremony. The need to develop a light combat helicopter for mountain warfare was felt during the Kargil War in 1999.

“Then the IAF and HAL have started exploring the possibility of developing the platform with a capacity to carry an adequate weapon load and sufficient fuel while still being able to operate in the higher reaches of the Himalayas” said one official.

In mid-2010, the LCH prototype completed a major flight test and was deemed to meet the desired parameters. In February 2020 the LCH was declared ready for production. In March, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the procurement of 15 domestically developed Limited Series Production (LSP) LCH for Rs 3,887 crore. The Ministry of Defense had said ten helicopters would be for the IAF and five for the Indian army.

The introduction of the helicopter comes at a time when India and China are mired in a military standoff at certain points of friction in eastern Ladakh. The LCH has similarities with Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv. It has several stealth features, armored protection systems, night attack capabilities and crash-worthy landing gear for improved survivability, officials said.

The LCH is equipped with the requisite agility, maneuverability, extended range, high altitude performance and combat capability in all weather conditions to perform a range of tasks including search and rescue (CSAR), destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD) and counter-insurgency (CI) operations.

The helicopter can also be deployed in high-altitude bunker busting, counter-insurgency operations in jungle and urban environments, as well as supporting ground forces. The helicopter can also be used against slow-moving aircraft and remote-controlled aircraft (RPAs) of opponents. Officials said it would provide a powerful platform to meet the operational requirements of the IAF and the Indian Army.

They said state-of-the-art technologies and systems compatible with stealth features such as reduced visual, auditory, radar and IR signatures and crash-resistance features for enhanced survivability have been integrated into the LCH for deployment in combat roles.

Several key aviation technologies such as a glass cockpit and composite airframe structure are native, they said. The future series production version will consist of more modern and native systems, they said. Four LCH helicopters have already been accepted by the IAF.

The officials said the IAF plans to purchase more LCH soon. The helicopter has been tested under strict operating conditions, including at sea level, in desert areas and Siachen. The military has a plan to acquire 95 LCH, largely for a combat role in the mountains.

(With inputs from PTI)

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