The Lancer is the Counter-Insurgency variant of the successful HAL Cheetah light helicopter. The Lancer Helicopter is a light attack helicopter developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as a cost effective airmobile area weapon system. The basic structure of the Lancer is derived from the reliable and proven Cheetah Helicopter. Lancer is based on the airframe of the Cheetah helicopter, the Lancer featured a redesigned 'bubble' made up of smaller toughened perspex panels, two armament pods slung on either side of the aircraft with machine guns and rockets and Armor protection to critical parts of the Helicopter.
The Lancer carries two jettisonable combination gun-cum-rocket pods, one each on right and left side on suspension points located on the armament pylon. A gun sight is provided for accurate aiming and firing by the pilot. Each pad carries one 12.7 mm gun and three 70 mm rockets. The plexiglas 'Bubble' Cabin was redesigned to incorporate faceted panels of toughened Glass resistant to small arms fire. The Lancer also incorporated Flare / Chaff launchers for protection against the MANPAD threat.
The Lancer is optimized for anti-insurgency operations, close air support, suppression of enemy fire, attack on vehicular convoys, destruction of enemy machine gun positions and anti-armor applications. The Pilots of the Lancer sit in seats which are in a bullet resistant Steel plate enclosure. The pilots have to swing open the Steel plate while moving from his seat.
A few late production airframes from the Cheetah assembly were directly built as Lancers. HAL had subsequently started converting older Cheetah's to the configuration of the Lancer. Within months the Lancer saw action first at the operations in Kargil. Reports indicate that while the Lancer was sucessful in COIN and suppression activity, an unfortunate side effect was that all Cheetah's were now considered as legitimate targets for hostile fire. Earlier the militants had the policy of leaving Casevac Cheetahs alone. But with the inability to distinguish between the Cheetah and the Lancer, all helicopters have come to be considered as 'Fair game'.
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