LCH Prachand

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has designed and manufactured an Indian multi-role light attack helicopter under Project LCH Prachand, marking India’s first combat helicopter capable of fighting at the highest altitudes with great accuracy. It has been ordered by both the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army.

When soldiers face ramshackle conditions, whether in plain areas like deserts or jungles or even in the highest places like the Siachen Glacier, where Indian soldiers need helicopter air power, this helicopter will provide backup to neutralize the enemy and triumph over any worst situation during the conflict. It has been designed with this concept in mind.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

Fact: The Kargil War fought between India and Pakistan in 1999, was the true impetus for the development of the LCH Prachand. It revealed that the Indian armed forces lacked a suitably armed rotorcraft capable of operating effectively in the high-altitude theatre. In early 2004, the Indian aerospace manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) announced that the company was in discussions with the Indian armed forces regarding a potential light combat helicopter derived from the company’s existing Dhruv utility helicopter platform. Later in 2004, the Indian armed forces decided to cancel orders for foreign-made attack helicopters in anticipation of a final selection of the proposed LCH.

Photo Credit: AirPra / LCH Prachand on Aero India 2023
Photo Credit: AirPra / LCH Prachand on Aero India 2023

The Origin and Development of the Prachand Helicopter

HAL made a public announcement in 2006 that it had started working on the creation of an assault helicopter called the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). In order to help the attack helicopter meet the defined needs of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, the Indian government opted to support the fledgling programme by granting external financing to fund the design phase of the LCH’s development in late 2006.

The inaugural powered ground run of the first LCH prototype occurred on February 4, 2010. Subsequently, on March 29, 2010, the first LCH Technology Demonstration (TD-1) successfully completed its maiden flight, taking off from HAL’s Helicopter Complex in Bengaluru. During this 20-minute flight, the rotorcraft underwent low-speed and low-altitude system checks. Following the flight, the crew reported satisfactory performance of both the helicopter and its systems.

Photo Credit: IAF
Photo Credit: IAF

When the third test flight of the LCH prototype was completed successfully on May 23, 2010, it was determined that it had passed the required criteria, allowing for the continuation of armed tests. The second LCH prototype (TD-2) was made public at Aero India 2011 and distinguished from the first by being equipped with weaponry and having a significant weight reduction. The following year, on June 28, TD-2 made its first flight.

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Overall it took more than a decade to overcome all parameters and finally on 17 January 2019, LCH completed weapons trials with the successful firing of a MISTRAL-2 Air-To-Air missile at a flying target.  On the same day, HAL announced that the LCH was ready for operational service after completing the required weapon integration tests.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

In February 2020, the LCH was given the all-clear to begin production. To accommodate the LCH assembly line, Bengaluru-based HAL’s Helicopter Division built a special hangar. According to reports, ground-based testing for the first LCH in the limited series production (LSP) batch started in September 2020.

As of 2020, an order for 162 LCHs is anticipated. For the Army and Air Force, HAL is producing 15 Limited Series Production variants, with the first two expected to be delivered by March 2022. In the newly constructed extra hangar, a high production rate of 30 helicopters per year was expected to be achieved. HAL has scheduled the delivery of the first three LCHs to the Indian Air Force for July 22, 2021.

Photo Credit: AirPra
Photo Credit: AirPra / The Army variant is armed with MISTRAL-2 Air-To-Air missile and rockets

The limited series manufacture of 15 LCHs, including 10 for the IAF and 5 for the Indian Army, was approved on March 30, 2022, by the Cabinet Committee on Security. The contract is worth Rs. 3,887 Cr along with infrastructure sanctions at Rs. 377 Cr.

On June 1st, 2022, the Army Aviation Corps in Bangalore established an attack squadron, part of a planned fleet of 7 squadrons, each equipped with 10 helicopters. In November 2022, the army transferred two LCH helicopters to Missmari in Assam, strategically located 250 kilometres (160 miles) from the Line of Actual Control. These Army variant helicopters are equipped with 20 mm nose guns, 70 mm rockets, and helicopter-launched anti-tank guided missiles. Additionally, air-to-air missiles will be utilized for Air Force variants. As of now, 5 helicopters have been delivered, with 3 more on order, and a total of 95 are planned for the Army’s inventory.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

On October 3, 2022, at Jodhpur Air Force Station, the IAF formally welcomed the HAL Prachand into the 143 Helicopter Unit. By June 2023, a total of 10 have been delivered, 6 are on order, and 65 are planned for the Air Force.

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Specifications of LCH Prachand Helicopter (As of 2023)

  •   Crew: 2 ( pilot & co-pilot gunner)
  •   Length: 51 ft 10 in ( 15.08 m )
  •   Height: 15 ft 5 in ( 4.70 m )
  •   Weight:  Empty _ 2,250 kg (4,960 lb)  and  Maximum Takeoff weight _  5,800 kg (12,787 lb)
  •   Weapons payload capacity:  Maximum _  1,750 kg (3,860 lb )
  •   Combat Mission Speed:  268 km/h (167 mph )
  •   Range:  580 km ( 342 mi ) with weapons, Combat range: Approximately 355 km ( 221 mi ) with weapons
  •   Combat Endurance:  3 Hours 40 minutes
  •   Service Ceiling:  21,300 ft  ( 6,492 m )
  •   Rate of climb:   2,400 ft/min ( 12 m/s )
  •   Powerplant:  2 x HAL / Turbomeca Shakti – 1H1 turboshaft engines 1,000 – 1,500 kW ( 1,400 – 2,000 hp ) each
  •   Armament:  One French Origin, 20 mm M621 cannon
  •   Total of 4 Hard Points:   With provisions to carry combinations of _
  •   Rockets:  4 x 12 FZ275 laser Guided Rocket ( LGR )  Or  Missiles:  4 x 2 Mistral ( AAM )  Or  4 x 4 Helina ( Anti-tank Guided Missile )  Or Combinations of Precision guided munition, cluster munition, Granade launcher, Unguided bombs.
Photo Credit: AirPra
Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

Interest in Foreign Countries

Promoting export sales for the LCH has been a key focus for both HAL and the Indian government. In mid-2016, a spokesperson from the Indian Defence Ministry revealed that the ministry had actively initiated discussions with various undisclosed African nations regarding the LCH.

On December 1, 2021, reports indicated that HAL was in competition for a contract aimed at fulfilling a potential order from Nigeria, with competitors from Italy, Turkey, and the US also in the running.

On October 21, 2022, officials from Argentina visited HAL facilities to inspect the Prachand helicopter, clearly indicating Argentina’s keen interest in this aircraft. A HAL representative mentioned in June 2023 that Argentina had expressed interest in the LCH Prachand during Aero India 2023.

Photo Credit: IAF / An Inside View of the LCH Prachand During the Flypast on Republic Day 2024

Recent reports have highlighted that during the September 2023 G-20 summit held in New Delhi, Nigeria signed a $1 billion agreement with India for the acquisition of military equipment. It is estimated that this agreement includes provisions for the LCH Prachand as well.

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In conclusion, the LCH Prachand stands as a testament to India’s commitment to advancing its military capabilities and strengthening its defence infrastructure. As a specialized armed helicopter derived from the HAL Rudra, it embodies versatility and firepower, equipped with an array of cutting-edge weapons and technologies. With its ability to operate in diverse and challenging environments, the Prachand plays a pivotal role in enhancing the operational readiness of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, providing crucial support in combat and reconnaissance missions.

Its development underscores India’s dedication to self-reliance in defence and showcases its prowess in adapting and enhancing indigenous platforms to meet evolving security needs. The HAL Prachand symbolizes not only technological prowess but also the nation’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding its sovereignty and security.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

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Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

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