Tuesday, December 6, 2022

IAF Inducts Indigenous LCH: What Does It Mean For Make-in-India?

By Staff Correspondent

In a big boost to Aatmanirbharatha in Defence, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today presided over the formal induction of Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Jodhpur. Naming LCH as “Prachanda”, the Defence Minister said that its induction comes during the Amrit kal when the Nation is celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahostav and a pointer to the future when IAF will be the top most force in the world, as also making the country fully AtmaNirbhar in Defence production requirements. The Raksha Mantri also took a sortie onboard the LCH shortly after its induction into IAF.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhary, Air Marshal Vikram Singh Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, South Western Air Command, Chairman and Managing Director of HAL C.B. Ananthakrishnan, senior officials of Ministry of Defence, IAF and local dignitaries were present on the occasion. 

In his address, Rajnath Singh praised role of IAF in meeting internal as well as external threats to the country since independence. He added that the induction of LCH, with its tremendous power and versatility, not only enhances the combat capabilities of IAF but is also a big step towards self-reliance in defense production, as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The trust reposed and support extended by the IAF towards indigenous design & development is evident through the examples such as Marut, Light Combat Aircraft, Akash missile system, Advanced Light Helicopter and the Light Combat Helicopter. “The induction of LCH underlines the fact that just as the country trusts the Indian Air Force, the IAF equally trusts the indigenous equipment,” he added.

The Defence Minister said that adequate attention was not paid to the development of indigenous attack helicopters for a long time after independence. However, since the Kargil War in 1999, the need for LCH was felt more and today’s LCH was a result of two decades of R&D and indigenous efforts in that direction. Rajnath Singh added that LCH was flying not only on the strength of its rotors, engines and blades but also on the strength of penance, patience, dedication and patriotism of many scientists, engineers and others.

Raksha Mantri noted that the LCH meets the requirements of modern warfare and necessary quality parameters under varied conditions of operations. It is capable of self-protection, of carrying a wide variety of ammunition, and delivering it to the field quickly. This versatile helicopter perfectly meets the needs of our armed forces in various terrains and as such LCH is an ideal platform for both our Army and Air Force, he added.

Rajnath Singh said that the recent conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere showed us that heavy weapon systems and platforms, which do not allow for rapid movement on the battlefield, are sometimes vulnerable and become easy targets for the enemy. Therefore, the need of the hour is to move towards the development of that equipment and platforms, which are mobile, have ease of movement, are more flexible, and at the same time meet the requirements of the armed forces. In this context, LCH has been developed with an unprecedented balance of all these features and HAL should be congratulated for this, Raksha Mantri said.

Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhary, Chief of Air Staff said on the occasion that induction of LCH adds unique capability to the IAF’s combat potential. Versatility and offensive potential of the LCH is at par or better than most attack helicopters operating globally. Selection of the personnel in the 143-helicopter unit which will man the LCH have been made based on professional competence so as to ensure operationalisation of the unit at the earliest, he added.

The LCH is the first indigenous Multi-Role Combat Helicopter designed and manufactured by HAL. It has potent ground attack and aerial combat capability. Inducted in IAF’s newly raised No. 143 Helicopter Unit, it is a testimony to India’s growing prowess in indigenous design, development & manufacturing and a significant milestone in the path towards ‘Atmanirbharta’ in Defence. The helicopter possesses modern stealth characteristics, robust armour protection and formidable night attack capability. Onboard advanced navigation system, guns tailored for close combat and potent air to air missiles make the LCH especially suited for the modern battlefield. Capable of operating from high altitude terrain and carrying out precision strike at high altitude targets, the helicopter is a formidable addition to IAF’s arsenal.

Airpower analyst and former IAF fighter pilot, Group Captain Johnson Chacko (Retd) offered his take on this development. He told IA&D, “The Himalayas have not only protected us from harsh cold winds but also from invasions. After the 1950s Chinese have intruded into our territory. We have never had an aircraft to fight in these high-altitude valleys. The LCH gives us this capability. Imported aircraft are not designed to fight in hot and high conditions. This indigenous design caters for it.”

Speaking about the indigenous element, the former flying ace said, “The design is ours. The IP is ours. We can mount whatever we want on it without asking any foreign country for permissions/source code etc. That is more important than the percentage of indigenous content. It will be prudent to import components as we don’t have that kind of demand for economies of scale from friendly countries. When we develop these components we can use them. For the amount spent on GTRE, we could have provided imported engines for 40 plus LCAs. However, it is important that we develop put own engines. The amount spent on developing the Kaveri engine could have funded the engines for first 40 LCAs. We must develop that engine too, for Atmanirbharta. Foreign countries don’t have that kind of terrain, so they don’t develop such aircraft.”

Coming to the lethality of the helicopter, he said, “It has the capability to be very formidable with the weapon systems on board. Integration of NavIC-based navigation and targeting systems will enhance it further. NavIC is an indigenous system. Manufacturers of such receivers are available in India. NavIC is better than GPS. It is ours. Americans can’t turn it off as they did in Kargil.”

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