India’s New Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) First Flight

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LCH TD-1 takes off on its maiden flight, Marcj 29, 2010 from Bangalore. Photo: HAL

HAL has performed the maiden flight of its indigenously designed & developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). The first Technology Demonstrator (TD-1) of the LCH flew the 20 minute flight from HAL’s Helicopter Complex, Bangalore on 29th March 2010.  This flight provided an opportunity to carry out low speed, low altitude checks on the various systems on-board. The crew reported that the performance of the helicopter and systems was satisfactory.

LCH TD-1 takes off on its maiden flight, Marcj 29, 2010 from Bangalore. Photo: HAL

Derived from the HAL Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), the new helicopter is a dedicated for attack missions, and, as such, is equipped with an enhanced weapon system, mission systems and crashworthy landing gear. The airframe is also enhanced with low-observable characteristics, primarily regarding the thermal signature. Design and development of the new platform continued at HAL in the last three years. The program is now entering the flight testing phase, expected to lead to initial operation clearance by December 2011, towards induction into Indian Armed Services.

The twin-engine LCH is a 5.5 ton class gunship, designed with an armored, tandem cockpit, equipped with advanced glass cockpit, helmet-mounted targeting systems and full day and night operational capability. The helicopter is powered by two Shakti engines, developing 900 kW (1200 hp) each, Developing a maximum air speed of 275 km/h. This engine was  jointly developed by HAL and Turbomeca of France.

The armament suite comprises a combination of free-flight 60/68mm rockets, Mistral air-to-air missile, a nose mounted 20mm cannon from Nexter and a variety of air-to-ground ordnance including anti-tank/multi-purpose missiles, high explosive fragmentation bombs and anti-radiation missiles. It will be fitted with the SAAB Aviatronics electronic counter-measures (ECM) suite for self defense.

Relying on its air-to-air and precision guided missiles ordnance, the new helicopter is slated for a variety of combat and combat support missions including anti-helicopter and anti-UAV air defense, Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (DEAD), and escort and support for Special Heliborne Operations (SHBO), as well as counter insurgency operations. The helicopter will be integrated with both Indian Army and Air Force units. HAL plans to sell at least 150 LCHs to the military services in India.

To support operations in high mountainous areas, the LCH is designed to take off, fully equipped from an altitude of 10,000 feet, and operate its weapons up to 16,300 feet. It will also be able to engage targets like UAVs that are flying at altitudes of up to 21,300 feet.