The 5.5-tonne twin engine LCH is a derivative of Dhruv ALH with tandem seating. The HAL developed LCH will supplement the 22 attack helicopters that India is seeking as part of an international tender.
The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is a derivative of Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv. It features tandem seating, instead of side by side as on the Dhruv, armor protection, and a glass cockpit.
Its Shakti engine, jointly developed by HAL and Turbomeca of France, has been optimized for high altitude operations.
The machine is a Low Observable (LO) design with reduced visual, aural, radar and infra red signatures. It features canted panels for lower radar cross section and IR suppressor for low IR signature.
It has crashworthy landing gear for better survivability. The hingeless rotors and the powerful Shakti engines enable the easy manoeuvring of LCH even with weapons.
The following are some of the important design features of the helicopter
The following are the survival features on the Light Combat Helicopter
It will be armed with a chin mounted 20mm turret twin-barrel gun, cluster bombs, 68mm rocket pods as well as air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
The M621 20 mm cannon on the LCH is known for its accuracy and high muzzle velocity and is slewable with either pilot’s helmet mounted sighting system, giving the capability to look and fire at targets around the aircraft.
The DRDO is reported to be developing the HELINA missile, a Nag derivative with an extended range of 7 km, to augment the helicopter's air-to-ground capability.
LCH has the capability for target detection and acquisition in all weather conditions facilitated by an advanced sensor suite consisting of day and night sensors (CCD camera, FLIR, laser designator and range finder).
The 68 mm rockets can be fired at targets up to six km even if not within the line-of-sight. Mistral-II air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground missiles can take on aerial and ground targets respectively. [via HAL Press Release]
Dr. Prasad Sampath, general manager of HAL's Rotary Wing Research & Design Center, told the press during Aero India 2011 that the LCH was ‘probably the most agile design in the world because of its rotor'.
Its advanced sensor suite, developed with the help of Israel, consists of CCD Camera, Forward looking infrared imaging technology and Laser range finder, facilitates target acquisition in all weather conditions and at night.
The EW suite has been procured from SAAB, South Africa.
The Helicopter would be fitted with a Data Link for network-centric operations facilitating the transfer of mission data to the other airborne platforms and ground stations operating in the network, thus facilitating the force multiplication.
LCH is intended for use in air defense against slow moving aerial targets, destruction of enemy air defence operations, escort to special heliborne operations, support of combat search and rescue operations, anti-tank role and scout duties.
Designed for anti-tank and anti-infantry roles with a maximum speed of 275 kmph (148kt), it will also be capable of high-altitude warfare since its operational ceiling will be 16,000 to 18,000 feet (5,490m).
HAL has already bagged a firm order to deliver 65 LCH to the IAF and 114 to the Army, company sources told PTI in December 2009.
On April 5, 2011, Flight magazine reported that deliveries against the order will start in 2013-14.
Two technology demonstrators of HAL's twin-engine LCH were on display at Aero India 2013, one doing the flying display and the other on static display. The two aircraft had logged 170 flights by February 7, 2013.
They have Shakti engines with Fadec, an electronic warfare suite from Saab and armaments that include a 20-mm turret twin-barrel gun, MBDA air-to-air missiles, Helina anti-tank missiles, cluster bombs and rocket pods. The LCH was developed to meet the requirements of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army, which have ordered 62 and 114, respectively.
"We are targeting September 2014 for the [initial operating capability],” HAL chairman R.K. Tyagi told the press during Aero India 2013.
The LCH's initial operational clearance (IOC) was originally scheduled for December, 2011.
The LCH was begin its first off-base trials at sea-level in October 2011, followed by off-base hot weather and cold weather trials at high altitude in Ladakh.
Weapons trials will take place between the hot and cold weather trials.
On June 28, 2012, the Livefist blog reported that the LCH is set to undergo sea level trials at AF Station Tambaram starting June 29, 2012. The trials are planned to span 7 to 10 days.
The first prototype of the Light Combat Helicopter was to make its maiden flight in March 2009. The landmark event was subsequently postponed to mid-August.
"We have completed the design. However, there was a problem with one of the vendors who was supposed to provide the tooling for the LCH, and so we have no choice but to push the first flight to August," said Ashok Baweja, HAL's chairman, during Aero India 2009.
The scheduled slipped further and the aircraft eventually flew for the first time on March 30, 2010. However, the flight, restricted to just a hover, was run up to the official first flight scheduled in April.
LCH first hover test. Credit: Flight Magazine / HAL
First official flight test is scheduled for April 2010, though there will be several flight tests in the run up to the event.
"The first flight was perfect and we achieved all the intended objectives," said an HAL official who witnessed the flight on March 30.
The LCH formally took to the skies in the presence of the Defence Secretary RK Singh, Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal PK Barbora, Chairman HAL, Ashok Nayak and senior officials of Defence ministry and the forces at the HAL airport in Bangalore on May 23.
Chief Test pilot Unni Pillai and Hari Nair put up a spectacular flying display of the LCH on its maiden flight.
LCH-TD2 at Aero India 2011. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur
The second prototype LCH - TD2 - was displayed at Aero India 2011. It started flying end June 2011.
According to HAL Chairman and Managing Director Ashok Nayak, the second LCH is a "considerable improvement" over the first prototype as HAL and DRDO scientists have been able to achieve substantial weight reduction.
"Not only that, the human and weapons payload capacity of the rotorcraft had already been exceeded than the parameters mandated by the Indian Air Force (IAF)," he told India Strategic defence magazine in July 2011.
Tthe two prototypes had flown 76 hours by July 2011.
A third prototype/tech demonstrator TD-3 is under fabrication as on August 2011, and will soon join the test program.
The LCH is currently reported to be 580 kg over its target weight. HAL is struggling to trim the weight in order to keep the aircraft in compliance with the QRs.
The first Technology Demonstrator, named TD-1, is reported to be 400 kg heavier than planned.
HAL hopes to progressively reduce weight with future technology demonstrators.
“We will find ways of cutting down TD-1 by 180-200 kg; TD-2, which will fly in mid-2010, will be another 100 kg lighter; and TD-3, which will be ready by end-2010, will shave off another 65-75 kg,” Managing Director of HAL’s Helicopter Complex, R Srinivasan, told Business Standard in September.
When it enters service, the LCH will still be 200 kg in excess, a concession the IAF is willing to make.