The Indian Air Force (IAF) inducted the first batch of the indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), named LCH Prachand, 23 years after it was envisaged. It is the only attack helicopter in the world that can operate in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.
The first squadron of the LCH — 143 Helicopter Unit (HU) — was raised at the Jodhpur Air Base in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), its induction marks the culmination of a process that began at the end of the 1999 Kargil conflict.
IAF sources explained that the Kargil War battle reflected the need for an indigenously built helicopter that could carry a sufficient weapons load, and also operate at high altitudes of the Himalayas. The LCH fulfills exactly these requirements.
LCH has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land in forward bases at Siachen, 4,700 metres above sea level with a 500 kg load. Seen as a force multiplier, the LCH, a 5.5-tonne class combat helicopter can undertake offensive operations in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region, unlike other attack helicopters, like the Apache, which are heavier in size.
Interestingly, even before the formal induction, the LCH was deployed by the Indian armed forces in eastern Ladakh where India has been at a stand-off with the Chinese forces for over two years.
Powered by two Shakti engines, 20mm turret guns, 70mm rocket systems, and Mistral-2 air-to-air missiles, with a top speed of 330 kmph, the LCH’s induction is another significant moment for India’s indigenous military manufacturing.