Helicopters were always a big business in India, and Aero-India provided a venue to highlight some of the future trends in this domain. India is planning to buy up to 80 new Mi-17 helicopters from Russia. Boeing is also courting India for the sale of Chinook heavy lift helicopters to fulfill heavy lift requirements. The latest model of this helicopter, CH-47F was displayed at Aero India 2007. Russia is also expected to deliver to the Indian Navy six new Ka-32 naval helicopters, to be configured for anti-submarine roles.
Realizing the limitation capabilities of the Russian made Mi-35 gunship to operate at high elevations and hot environment India is seeking to induct a light helicopter gunships capable of operating at these conditions. As a stop gap, The IAF has modified its Mi-17 medium lift transport helicopter by mounting machine guns and rocket launchers on board but India is planning to pursue an attack version of this helicopter, designed for operations at high elevations. While the Drhuv helicopters made their daily aerobatic displays at the flight line, HAL’s static exhibit focused on a full-scale mock-up of a future version of its attack helicopter, based on the advanced light helicopter (ALH). The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is designed to provide an effective, high altitude combat capability unattained by current helicopter gunships. LCH will be capable of operating at an altitude above 15,000 ft. loaded with guns, rockets and missiles and equipped with an integral, stabilized optronic turret. The new helicopter could augment the 12 ton Mi-35 only attack helicopter currently serving with the Indian Air Force. The new gunship is expected to have an avionic suite based on the ALH’s advanced cockpit. HAL is planning to roll out the LCH prototype in 2008.
Under a parallel approach, Russia is set to unroll its own 10 ton class high-altitude helicopter gunships and is offering India to join the program as a co-development partner. Russian helicopter developer Kamov is already working on two designs, the Ka-60 and Ka-52. Kamov plans to roll out the new KA-52 helicopter gunship, which can be used at altitudes above 15,000 ft. The Mil design bureau is also working on a 10-ton class heavy lift troop carrying helicopter to be capable of operating at these elevations.