Bangalore: The Indian Army has drawn plans to boost its operational air capability and will be inducting combat helicopters along the border frontiers in northern and western sectors. The Army, which is operating with around 250 Chetak and Cheetah helicopters, wants to replace it with Light Combat Helicopters (LCH Prachand) and an advanced light helicopter weapon system integrated.

Army chief General Manoj Pande told the media on the sidelines of the Aero India show in Bengaluru that the force wanted to procure 90-95 LCH Prachand for mountain warfare. The Indian Army already operates four squadrons of ALH WSI. In addition, the Army is also looking for about 110 light utility helicopters to replace the Cheetah and Chetak.

On the US-supplied Apache, he said, “We expect that a few of six ordered Apaches will be delivered in the early parts of next year.” On ALH, General Pande said the Army has received the first lot from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and wants some changes in the choppers.

The Indian Air Force has raised its squadron of LCH Prachand in Jodhpur while the Army has done so at Tezpur.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in March last year approved the procurement of 15 Light Combat Helicopter (LCH Prachand) limited series production at the cost of Rs 3,887 crore along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore. Of these five LCH Prachand are to be inducted into the Indian Army.

The LCH Prachand is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured state-of-the-art modern combat helicopter powered by a twin Shakti engine with a range of 550 km and a maximum speed of 268 kmph. It is compatible with high-altitude deployment with the capability to take off and land at about 5,000 metre (16,400 feet). The IAF is in the process of finalising the number of LCH Prachands to be procured. These helicopters may replace the ageing Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack choppers presently in fleet.

In June 2022, the Indian Army inducted the first LCH Prachand squadron in Bangalore. It will be moved to Eastern Command along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) next year. The LCH Prachand is equipped with requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, high altitude performance and around-the-clock, all-weather combat capability to perform roles of combat search and rescue, destruction of enemy air defence, counter-insurgency operations against slow-moving aircraft, and remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), high-altitude bunker busting operations and support to ground forces. It would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of the IAF and the Army.

State-of-the-art technologies and systems compatible with stealth features such as reduced visual, aural, radar and IR signatures and crashworthiness features for better survivability have been integrated into LCH Prachand. Several key aviation technologies such as glass cockpits and composite airframe structures have been indigenised.