A very expensive project, the initial allotment for the Indian Air Force was upwards of Rs 3,500 crore.
In a big boost to its combat prowess, the Indian Air Force on Monday inducted the first batch of indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopters, named Prachand, that are capable of firing a range of missiles and other weapons.
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"It is a momentous occasion reflecting India's capability in defence production," Rajnath Singh said at the event.
The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), developed by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), has been primarily designed for deployment in high-altitude regions. It was inducted into the IAF at a ceremony in Jodhpur in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari.
The Defence Minister revealed that the helicopter has been named "Prachand".
The light combat helicopter over the next several years will be the bedrock of attack helicopter formations in the Indian Army and in the Indian Air Force. The 5.8-tonne twin-engine helicopter has already completed various weapons firing tests, the officials said.
While we have the American Apache chopper as well, which is larger than this and perhaps more capable, this fulfils a specific role, particularly in very high altitude operations where it can carry a significant payload. The design of the chopper is entirely Indian. The integration is Indian, and it fulfils an Indian requirement.
The chopper has been tested over Ladakh. It can take out Chinese drones with air-to-air missiles. It can also take out tanks on the ground using air to surface anti tank munitions.
95 of these choppers will go to the Indian Army. A handful has already entered the service. Approximately 65 will go to the Indian Air Force as well. A very expensive project, the initial allotment for the Indian Air Force was upwards of Rs 3,500 crore. The price will be progressively revised as sanction is received. That sanction will be given over a period of time as newer avatars of this helicopter are produced.
The LCH has similarities with Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv. It has a number of stealth features, armoured-protection systems, night attack capability and crash-worthy landing gear for better survivability, the officials said. It is equipped with requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, high altitude performance and all-weather combat capability to perform a range of roles including combat search and rescue (CSAR), destruction of enemy air defence (DEAD) and counter-insurgency (CI) operations.
The helicopter can also be deployed in high-altitude bunker-busting operations, counter-insurgency operations in the jungles and urban environments, as well as for supporting ground forces.
The helicopter can also be used against slow-moving aircraft and remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) of adversaries. Officials said it would be a potent 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, aural, radar and IR signatures and crashworthiness features for better survivability have been integrated into the LCH for deployment in combat roles.