The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), developed to cater to the needs of the IAF and the Indian Army, is all set to undergo sea-level trials near Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The LCH is a multirole combat helicopter being developed by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). According to reports, the sea-level trials in Tamil Nadu will carry on for a week or more.
As reported by the media, a prototype of the LCH has arrived in Tambaram (Tamil Nadu) along with a Mi-8 helicopter from the IAF’s Yelahanka station. Regarding the trials on the LCH, these will include generic performance and handling at sea-level, calibration of the LCH's air speed measurement system and measurement of forces in terms of stress on various components of the platform, sources indicated.
Like most public sector Defence projects, the LCH has also had its share of delays. The LCH was expected to be ready for the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) by December 2010 with the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) in 2011. However, as per the new schedules and timeframes, the LCH should be ready for induction only by 2012-2013.
The LCH is a 5.5 tonne multi-role combat chopper and is a derivative of the ‘Dhruv’ ALH already in service with the Armed Forces. The LCH is designed to fit into an anti-infantry and anti-armour role and will be able to operate at high altitudes in the range of 6000-7000 metres. The LCH is powered by the HAL/Turbomeca Shakti turbo-shaft engine and equipped with helmet-mounted targeting systems, electronic warfare systems and advanced weapons systems. With a data link on board, the LCH will be able to carry out network-centric operations. It will have a glass cockpit, gun and rocket pods, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles to attack and destroy hostile positions high in the mountains.
Sources indicated that two more prototypes of the LCH are under construction in order to achieve its induction into the IAF by this year end. Apparently, a third prototype in on the anvil and it may well be the final LCH in terms of dimension, design and configuration. However, more weapon trials and flight tests will be carried out before the LCH gets inducted in the Armed Forces.
Regarding the project costs for the LCH, the amount is $ 174.8 million and HAL has revealed that the IAF is set to acquire 65 LCHs and Indian Army will acquire 114 LCHs. As of now, off-base trials at sea level have been conducted followed by off-based hot weather and cold weather trials at high altitude in Ladakh. As for the second prototype, the LCH TD-2, it has been weaponized with more sub-systems and over 20 test flights have been conducted to check various flight parameters. The second prototype was flown to a height of 10,000 feet with an all-up weight (AUW) of 4,900 kgs. The parameters included general handling, slow speed handling, basic automatic flight control system (AFCS) checks and 60 degree bank turns.