The indigenously designed and built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is all set to achieve final clearance anytime this month. Following that, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will start serial production of the attack choppers. The 5.8 tonne multirole attack chopper is intended to play a major role in providing close air support to ground forces and is the only attack helicopter in the world that can operate at heights of 12,000 feet.
“Having completed all performance trails, final clearance is expected anytime soon from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) in Bangalore. After that we will integrate weapons and finalize configuration as per the requirements of the end users — the Army and Air Force,” a senior HAL official told The Hindu.
HAL already has a firm order for 65 from the Air Force and 114 from the Army. This number is expected to go up given the army’s plan to have attack helicopters embedded in all formations for close air support.
HAL officials explained that unlike fixed wing aircraft which need Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and Final Operational Clearance (FOC), helicopters usually get a final clearance. The government had earlier informed Parliament that production plans for LCH have been made from 2017-18.
Light Utility Helicopter
HAL is scheduled to conduct the maiden flight of the under development Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) in December coinciding with the 75 year celebrations of the company.
“Efforts are on to have the first flight in December,” one defence official said. The 3.1 tonne single engine helicopter is powered by the Shakti engine which powers the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) as well as the LCH and is intended to replace the aging Cheetahs and Chetaks with the three services.
As per plan, HAL intends to build four prototypes by 2017 and start production by 2018. The Army and Air Force together have committed to purchase 187 LUHs.