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Light Combat Helicopter (LCH)

The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is being developed by HAL to cater to the requirements of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army for a Combat Helicopter. It is not a replacement for the ageing fleets of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters as LCH is a 5.5 Ton class twin engine armed helicopter whereas Cheetah and Chetak are sub 3 ton single engine unarmed utility helicopters.

LCH is a 5.5-ton class, combat helicopter designed and developed by HAL. It is powered by two Shakti engines and inherits many technical features of the Advanced Light Helicopter. The features that are unique to LCH are sleek and narrow fuselage, tri-cycle crashworthy landing gear, crashworthy and self-sealing fuel tanks, armor protection and low visibility features which makes the LCH lethal, agile and survivable. The helicopter would have day/night targeting systems for the crew including the Helmet pointed sight and Electro-optical pod consisting of CCD camera/FLIR/Laser Range Finder(LRF)/Laser Designator(LD). The LCH is fitted with Self Protection Suite consisting of Radar/Laser Missile warning systems and Countermeasures dispensing system.

HAL designed the twin engine Light Combat Helicopter featuring a tandem configuration for pilot and co-pilot/ weapon system operator. The helicopter has indigenous state of the art technologies like integrated dynamic system, bearing less Tail Rotor, anti-resonance vibration isolation system, crash worthy landing gear, smart glass cockpit, hinge less main rotor, Armour Protection and stealth features from visual, aural, radar and IR signatures. The helicopter is equipped with 20mm Turret gun, 70 mm Rocket, Air to Air Missile, EO-Pod and Helmet pointing system. The helicopter can carry out operational roles under extreme weather conditions at different altitudes from sea level, hot weather desert, cold weather and Himalayan altitudes. The LCH has demonstrated capability to land and take off from Siachen Range with considerable load, fuel and weapons.

Previously known as the LAH (Light attack helicopter), and not to be confused with the Lancer LAH (Light attack Helicopter), which is a derivative of the Cheetah helicopter, HAL's recently rechristened Light Combat Helicopter (LCH ) is a dedicated combat and gunship variant of the existing Advanced Light Helicopter(Dhruv/ALH), being developed to a draft IAF and IA requirement. The LCH belongs to the 5.5 ton class, with a narrow fuselage accommodating a pilot and a gunner/co-pilot in tandem configuartion. The LCH will feature a full glass cockpit for both the pilot and gunner, as well as eye level displays.

The Light Combat Helicopter is powered by engines made by Turbomeca of France, and fitted with anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles and electronic warfare equipment, will perform anti-tank and counter insurgency roles, as well as scout duites, escort to heliborne operations and support for combat SAR operations. Armament includes a chin mounted twin barrel 20 mm cannon, rockets, air to surface and air to air missiles.

The LCH will have a glass cockpit with multifunction displays, a target acquisition and designation system with FLIR, Laser rangefinder and laser designator. Weapons will be aimed with a helmet mounted sight and there will be an electronic warfare suite with radar warning receiver, laser warning receiver and a missile approach warning system.

Aero India 2003 revealed a full scale mock up of India's new Light Combat Helicopter from HAL. At that time it was expected to be operational within four years. The IAF offered Rs. 300 crores to fund in part the LCH project, and according to HAL Chairman N.R. Mohanty, the helicopter will make its maiden flight in 2005. The LCH proposal was at an advanced stage, and would need 25 months to fly from date of project launch and another two years for weaponisation.

In 2006 it was announced that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) planned to build a Light Combat Helicopter. The Government has accorded sanction in October 2006 for the design and development of Light Combat Helicopter to meet the need of combat helicopter of Indian Air Force (IAF). HAL has undertaken the design and development program of the Project. The Initial Operational Clearance for service deployment by IAF was planned by November 2010. The Ministry of Defence had sanctioned $24 million in October 2006 for HAL to make 2 LCH prototypes by 2008. HAL announced plans at Aero India 2007 to make a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) derivative of the Advanced Light helicopter (ALH) to enter service by 2012.

The Light Combat Helicopter proposal sponsored by the IAF may face rough weather in its weapon fit, if the Army is not taken on board, now that it has issued its new Doctrine and attack helicopters form a major feature. Rumors of Israeli participation in the project have proven to be unsubstantiated.

Though the LCH is derived from the 'Dhruv' and will carry the same weapons package being qualified on board the armed 'Dhruv' (that have been ordered by the Army for its projected Combat Aviation Brigade), the IAF had specified a top speed 25kph higher. The two pilots in the LCH sit one behind the other, compared to side-by-side in the Dhruv. So all the flight controls, the hydraulics and the fuel system had to be redesigned for the sleeker, heavily armoured LCH. The LCH's many stealth features also necessitated redesigning the fuselage.

As of 2008 HAL was due to roll out the first of three LCH prototypes early in 2009, with initial operational clearance being granted by March 2010, and full certification of airworthiness being granted by January 2011, 25 months after the LCH's first flight. The LCH design was finalised and frozen in March 2008, at which time the first technology demonstrator (TD-1) was to fly by March 2009, testing the LCH's flying systems; by July 2009, the second technology demonstrator (TD-2) will fly, fitted with all the weapons and electronic sensors. By the end of 2009, the Indian Air Force (IAF), the primary users of the LCH, will be conducting flight tests on the TD-3.

In February 2009 Hindustan Aeronautics confirmed that it planned to carry out the first flight of its Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) in mid-August, a six-month delay from the original schedule.

The indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), powered by Shakti engines, undertook its inaugural flight on 29 March 2010. It was laced with Forward Looking Infra Red Imaging Technology, Laser Range Finder facilities for target acquisition under all-weather conditions and data link for network centric operations. The 5.5 ton capacity helicopter was due to get its Initial Operational Clearance in December 2011.

As of March 2015, one of the LCH prototypes needed to be subjected to field trials in high altitude and in cold weather. TD-2 prototype had successfully passed the cold weather trials at High altitude. TD-3 and TD-4 prototypes would be utilized for other flight test requirements. The production plan of LCHs was made from 2017-18 onwards subject to firm order from IAF for limited series production.

On August 26, 2017 Mr. Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance, Defence and Corporate Affairs, declared the launch of production of HAL designed 5.8 ton category Light Combat Helicopter and dedicated the HALs role changer design upgrade program of Hawk-i to the nation in HAL premises. Senior officials from Ministry of Defence, Indian Air Force and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited were present on the occasion. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Jaitely hailed HALs confidence in bringing Hawk-i and LCH indigenously. He said DPSU work culture and performance have highest standards of professionalism. We are moving in the right direction in evolving ourselves into a major manufacturing hub. In this context todays experience has been encouraging, he said.

HALs Rotary Wing R&D Centre designed the LCH whereas Mission & Combat System R&D Centre (MCSRDC) designed the Hawk-I in association with the Aircraft Division. The basic version of LCH had been cleared by CEMILAC. The DAC had accorded approval for procurement of 15 LCH from HAL under IDDM category. Accordingly, the production was launched.

The Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for LCH was accorded on August 26, 2017 in the presence of Defence Minister. The Defence Minister launched the production of LCH at Bengaluru and IOC documents of the basic version were handed over to HAL by CEMILAC. At that time, four technology demonstrators were under flight testing. LCH has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land in Forward Bases at Siachen, 5400 mts above sea level. The helicopter participated in IAF's `Iron Fist 2016' exercise in March 2016 and displayed its rocket firing capabilities in its weaponised configuration.

On December 22, 2017 HAL received a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 15 Limited Series Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army. This came close on the heels of HAL receiving RFP for supply of 83 LCAs (Light Combat Aircraft) just days earlier.

Giving further thrust to the Make in India initiative, on January 31, 2018 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited carried out the first flight of Light Combat Helicopter (Technology Demonstrator-2) with its own designed and developed Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) for the first time in the country. The maiden flight was flawless and flew for 20 minutes with the engagement of the system throughout. The development of indigenous AFCS is HAL funded project and will replace the high value imported system, says Mr. T. Suvarna Raju, HAL-CMD. The AFCS is a digital four axis flight control system capable of performing control & stability augmentation function and auto-pilot modes of helicopters.

The indigenous development of the Hardware, Software and Control Law is a fully in-house effort of HAL R&D Centres - RWR&DC and MCSRDC at Bengaluru, SLRDC at Hyderabad and Korwa Division, he added. Wg Cdr( Retd) Unni K Pillai, Chief Test Pilot and Gp. Capt (Retd) Rajesh Verma, Test Pilot were on the controls of LCH. Representatives from certification agencies and senior officers from HAL were present. HAL has already indigenised the Cockpit Display System on LCH namely the Integrated Architecture Display System (IADS) with the participation of Indian private industries and development flight testing is under progress.




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