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Light Combat Helicopters Inducted into Indian Air Force
Oct 05, 2022
Our today's edition of Current Affairs is here. Read to know more about Light Combat Helicopters that were recently introduced into the Indian Air Force. Also, find the topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus below:
For Mains: Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), Defense exports, Indegionus defense production
Recently, a fleet of indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Jodhpur air base. Earlier, the LCH was formally inducted into the Army in September at Bangalore.
What are Light Combat Helicopters (LCHs)? Through some light on development of LCHs in India as part of self-reliance in the defense sector.
It was during the 1999 Kargil war that the need was first felt for a homegrown lightweight assault helicopter that could hold precision strikes in all Indian battlefield scenarios.
There was a need for a craft that could operate in very hot deserts and also in very cold high altitudes, in counter-insurgency scenarios to full-scale battle conditions.
India has been operating sub 3 ton category French-origin legacy helicopters, Chetak and Cheetah, made in India by the HAL which were primarily utility helicopters.
Indian forces also operate the Lancer, an armed version of Cheetah.
In addition, the Indian Air Force currently operates the Russian origin Mi-17 and its variants Mi-17 IV and Mi-17 V5, with maximum take off weight of 13 tonnes, which are to be phased out starting 2028.
However, the requirement was for a more agile, multi-role dedicated attack helicopter.
After the initial deliberations, the government sanctioned the LCH project in October 2006, and HAL was tasked to develop it.
The HAL’s Rotary Wing Research and Development Center, which had already worked on the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruva and its weaponized version ALH Rudra, started working on the project for LCH.
Clearance of LCHs
In the LCH’s journey towards clearance and induction by the IAF and the Army, extensive flight testing has been carried out on four prototypes, also known as Technology Demonstrators (TDs).
The first Technology Demonstrator was completed in February 2010 and took its first flight the same year.
TD-2 prototype, completed around 2012, successfully passed the cold weather trials at high altitude.
TD-3 and TD-4 prototypes, completed around 2014 and 2015, successfully tested other flight test requirements.
Flight testing was carried out at various altitudes, from sea level to the Siachen range, in extreme cold and hot weather conditions, and in desert regions.
During these tests, integration of mission sensors such as electro-optical system, helmet-mounted display system, solid state data and video recorder, and weapon systems such as turret gun, rockets and air-to-air missile systems was carried out.
Initial operational clearance came in 2017 for the IAF variant and in 2019 for the Army variant.
In November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi symbolically handed over the LCH to the Indian Air Force, paving the way for its final induction.
The Limited Series Production version of the light combat helicopter has around 45 per cent indigenous content by value.
In due course, it will increase to more than 55 per cent for the Series Production version.
Features of the Light Combat Helicopter
The LCH has been designed as a twin-engine, dedicated combat helicopter of 5.8-ton class, thus categorized as light.
LCH has the maximum take-off weight of 5.8 tonnes, maximum speed of 268 kilometers per hour, range of 550 kilometers, endurance of over three hours and service ceiling (the maximum density altitude to which it can fly) of 6.5 kilometers.
The helicopter uses radar-absorbing material to lower radar signature and has a significantly crash-proof structure and landing gear.
A pressurized cabin offers protection from nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) contingencies.
The helicopter is equipped with a countermeasure dispensing system that protects it from enemy radars or infrared seekers of the enemy missiles.
A 20 mm turret gun, 70 mm rockets and air-to-air missile systems are onboard as part of its weapon system.
LCH is powered by two French-origin Shakti engines manufactured by the HAL.
Significance of LCH
The LCH has the capabilities of combat roles such as
Destruction of enemy air defense,
Counter insurgency warfare,
combat search and rescue,
Anti-tank, and counter surface force operations.
It can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 meters with a considerable load of weapons and fuel.
It will boost defense exports of India. For export, the HAL has already obtained a no objection certificate from the Ministry of Defense for countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Angola, Egypt, Indonesia, Ecuador and Nigeria, etc.
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