A representation file image. | Image Credit: PTI
The Army has deployed its first batch of Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) to Missamari, Assam, in the eastern sector near the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The LCH, India’s first indigenously designed and developed attack helicopter, is also the first attack helicopter operated by the Army.
“Two helicopters moved there on November 1. A third helicopter will move at the end of November and a fourth in mid-December. The army will receive 5 th LCH until January-end The team will be fully operational then,” a defense source said The Hindu. The Air Force raised the first batch of LCH in Jodhpur in October.
The Army raised 351 Air Force to operate the LCH on June 1, 2022 in Bengaluru and received the first LCH by the end of September. The shortest air distance from LAC to Missamari is about 250 km.
The LCH will be armed with a 20 mm nose gun, 70 mm rockets, helicopter-launched anti-tank missiles and a new air-to-air missile different from MBDA’s ‘Mistral-2’ of the IAF LCH. However, so far, the two rockets have not been placed on the LCH. The army is planning to install the helicopters with all the important structures to provide close support against the weapons.
The twin engine LCH designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is a 5-8 ton dedicated combat helicopter whose concept was adopted after the 1999 Kargil conflict. The helicopter has a combat range of 500 km and a service ceiling of 21,000 feet which makes it suitable to operate at high altitudes including the Siachen glacier.
In March 2020, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the procurement of 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) LCH helicopters, 10 of which are for the IAF and five for the Army. .
Ultimately, the Army is looking for another 95 LCHs and the IAF for another 65 of them. However, the contract is yet to be worked out, and their production will be spread over the next 10-15 years, officials said. As previously reported, the Army plans to eventually deploy 70 of its LCHs to the mountains.
The Air Force has three squadrons in Leh, Missamari and Jodhpur operating around 145 indigenous light helicopters (ALH), 75 of which are Rudra weapon types, and around 190 Cheetah, Chetak and Cheetal helicopters. A further 25 ALH Mk-IIIs have been ordered and will be launched within two years. The Army will also begin acquiring Apache attack helicopters in early 2024, six of which were agreed to in an estimated $800 million deal with Boeing in February 2020. In addition, the Army is also pushing the case for 11 additional Apaches that Negotiations are ongoing.