Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has indigenously developed a multi-role Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), Prachand which is suitable for operating in high-altitude battlefields.
What is a Light Combat Helicopter?
- It is the only attack helicopter in the world. It can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 meters with a considerable load of weapons and fuel.
- The helicopter uses radar-absorbing material to lower radar signature and has a significantly crash-proof structure and landing gear.
- A pressurized cabin offers protection from Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) contingencies.
- The helicopter is equipped with a countermeasure dispensing system. It safeguards it from enemy radars or infrared seekers of enemy missiles.
- The HAL manufactures two French-origin Shakti engines that power the LCH.
- It was during the 1999 Kargil war that the need was first felt for a homegrown lightweight assault helicopter that could hold precision strikes in all Indian battlefield scenarios.
- This meant a craft that could operate in very hot deserts and very cold high altitudes, in counter-insurgency scenarios to full-scale battle conditions.
- India has been operating sub-3-ton category French-origin legacy helicopters, Chetak and Cheetah, made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- These single-engine machines were, primarily, utility helicopters. Indian forces also operate the Lancer, an armed version of Cheetah.
- Additionally, the Indian Air Force is currently operating the Russian-origin Mi-17 and its variants Mi-17 IV and Mi-17 V5, with a maximum take-off weight of 13 tonnes, and plans to phase them out starting in 2028.
- The government sanctioned the LCH project in October 2006 and HAL was tasked to develop it.
The LCH has the capabilities of combat roles such as destruction of enemy air defence, counter insurgency warfare, combat search and rescue, anti-tank, and counter surface force operations.