Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Indian Army Aims To Procure Around 200 Attack & Utility Choppers

By Aritra Banerjee

The Indian Army is reportedly seeking to purchase 95 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) Prachand for mountain warfare, along with 110 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) to replace their ageing Cheetahs and Chetaks. According to Army Chief General Manoj Pande, the Service is also set to receive an initial batch of six Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Speaking at Aero India 2023 in Bengaluru, Gen. Pande said that the Army had requested certain improvements to the ALHs, including autopilot capability.

The Army Chief added that the it expects to receive all six Apache attack helicopters it ordered from the United States by 2024. Any additional orders will depend on how the Prachands shape up. Gen. Pande highlighted the versatility of the LCH in terms of manoeuvrability, noting that it is better suited for high altitudes. Although both the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Army have raised their first squadron of LCHs, the helicopter is not yet fully operational as it lacks its main arsenal and protection suites.

The LCH, also known as the tank buster, is expected to receive its anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) by mid-2023, with the indigenous Helina ATGM having cleared trials. Gen. Pande noted that the LUHs fall under the category of recce and observation, and will replace the Army’s current fleet of around 250 Cheetahs and Chetaks.

The Army Chief also emphasised the relevance of helicopters in warfare, stating that the new helicopters would have a number of suites to operate in contested environments. The Army’s priority is the indigenisation of air defence guns, and integrated electronic warfare (EW) systems are being tested along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Despite concerns over using attack helicopters in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, Gen. Pande argued that helicopters would continue to have relevance in warfare, just as tanks and anti-tank systems do.

IADB had previously reported that the Indian Army is expected to have over 700 helicopters in its inventory in 8-10 years.

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