The Light Combat Helicopter or LCH is India’s first indigenously developed and built Combat Helicopter. Previously the Indian Army and Indian Air Force have operated a variety of military utility helicopters, primarily of French, American or Russian design, some of which are built under license by Indian companies. They have also operated the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL Dhruv Utility helicopter.
The LCH is being developed by HAL and based on the Dhruv airframe. Plans are to have the LCH reach operational status sometime in 2011 and be ready to be deployed in operational numbers in 2012 and 2013. So far the LCH has undergone several rounds of successful testing. The LCH prototype has completed 3 successful test flights as of March 2010.
Bieng based on a proven airframe the development cost for the LCH is pegged at a relatively low 3.76 Billion Indian Rupees (78 Million Dollars American).
HAL has solid orders of 65 LCHs for the Indian Air Force and an additional 114 for the Indian Army.
The LCH is designed to have advanced avionics including helmet mounted aiming of the primary weapon systems, Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) and laser target detection systems. It will also be equipped with advanced data link systems to interface in a network centric construct. The LCH also includes stealth features and Nuclear, Chemical and Biological defense systems.
General characteristics of the LCH are a Crew of 2, a pilot and a weapons officer seated front and back, not side to side. Length: 51feet 8inches, Height: 15 feet 4 inches, Rotor diameter: 43 feet 6 inches with a total loaded weight of 8818 pounds and with a payload of 6503 pounds.
Performance: Maximum Speed: 148 knots or 171 miles per hour (mph); Cruising: 2140 knots or 161 mph. The LCH has a range of 700 km or 342 miles and with an operational ceiling of 21,300 feet.
The planned weapons load is a turret-mounted 20mm cannon, unguided rockets, air to air and air to surface missiles including anti-tank andaAnti-Radar missiles and unguided bombs, cluster bombs and grenade launchers. With such an ordinance load the LCH is designed and equipment to carry out multiple missions. These include Anti-armor and anti-infantry attack. Air defense against other helicopters and drones, anti-air defense missions and escort for heli-borne infantry attacks. Also the LCH will be able to conduct scouting and Search and Rescue missions.
The LCH will fulfill the same role of the Indian military as the AH-1 Super Cobra does for the United States Marine Corps.