The induction of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-made Light Combat Helicopter into the Indian Air Force, the first of an initial order of 10 for the Air Force and five for the Army, is a timely boost to the country’s atmanirbharta goals in defence hardware.
About the LCH Prachand –
- The aircraft, arguably the lightest fighter helicopter in the world, is 45 per cent indigenous right now, but will become more Indian in the years to come.
- Named Prachand, or fearless, this versatile 5.8 tonner is said to be the only helicopter that can land and take off at heights of 15,000 ft, loaded with weapons and fuel.
- It can operate at altitudes of upto 20,000 ft, higher than any other attack helicopter available to the Indian military. That makes it ideal for deployment at the Line of Actual Control.
- Indeed, the Indian Air Force flew a pair of LCH at the LAC in 2020, in a kind of live trial of the aircraft in a real time operational setting, giving it, as it were, a final thumbs up. Not that it had not been adequately tested already.
- The need for an LCH was first felt during the Kargil war against Pakistan. After developing the platform, HAL carried out several tests from 2010 to 2019, including a landing at Siachen in 2015.
- The LCH thus became the first attack helicopter to land on the world’s highest battlefield. Not counting the two decades it has taken from drawing board to induction — the delay was not so much a problem with the aircraft, but the glacial speed at which the defence procurement bureaucracy works — the LCH is a major breakthrough.
- However, HAL has no time to rest on its laurels. One consequence of the Russian war in Ukraine is that it has brought into sharper focus the extent of India’s dependency on Moscow for defence hardware, and the urgent need for indigenisation to the extent possible.
- HAL’s indigenous multi-role helicopter, being developed to take the place of Mi17s that have started to be phased out, is the next big challenge.
Way forward –
Beyond equipping the Indian military, the government evidently believes after successfully selling the joint India-Russia Brahmos missiles to the Philippines that the international market awaits Indian defence production. Will there be a demand for India-made defence helicopters? It is hard to say, but the logic of self-reliance in defence production demands international standards. The LCH is a great start.
Source – The Indian Express
QUESTION – Can the LCH Prachand be the next big thing in India’s defence export basket after BrahMos? Discuss in brief.