A team of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is in Argentina to negotiate with the Argentinian Air Force to make a pitch for its LCH "Prachand, along with its indigenously developed Tejas fighter jets.

The team comprising the Indian Ambassador to Argentina, Dinesh Bhatia, and officials of HAL met the FAA Chief Brigadier General Xavier Isaac. It remains to be seen if IAF will clinch its “breakthrough” deal.

Prachand is India’s first indigenous multi-role combat helicopter with potent ground attack and aerial combat capability. It has been customized as per the Indian armed forces’ requirement to operate in deserts and mountains.

The indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand’, meaning "Fierce" was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force at the Jodhpur airbase on October 3, 2022.

Designed, developed and extensively test-flown for over a decade by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the multi-role attack helicopter has been customised as per the requirements of the Indian armed forces to operate both in desert terrains and high-altitude sectors. Prachand is the only attack helicopter in the world that can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 metres (16,400 ft), which makes it ideal to operate in the high altitude areas of the Siachen glacier. It is also capable of firing a range of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles and can destroy air defence operations of the enemy.

The Prachand project can be traced to the 1999 Kargil war when the armed forces felt the need for a dedicated platform capable of operating at high altitudes and delivering precision strikes as the existing attack choppers couldn’t effectively hit targets. This laid the foundation for the research and development of an India-made attack helicopter.

In October 2006, the government sanctioned the design and development of Prachand. The Indian Army joined the program in December 2013. The HAL built four Prachand prototypes — technology demonstrators or TDs — and flight-tested them with over 1,600 total flights logging 1,239 flight hours. The helicopter prototypes were tested for around a decade under difficult conditions including sea trials in Chennai, extreme cold weather in Leh, desert conditions in Jodhpur and high altitudes in Siachen.

During its testing, the Prachand landed at a forward base in the region, 4,700 meters above sea level, and 500-kg load.

Key Features & Roles

Powered by twin Shakti engines, a collaborative effort of the HAL and France’s Safran company, the Prachand is a 5.8-ton class combat helicopter with potent ground attack and aerial combat capability. “The helicopter possesses modern stealth characteristics, robust armour protection and formidable night attack capability. Onboard advanced navigation system, guns tailored for close combat and potent air to air missiles make the Prachand especially suited for the modern battlefield,” the Defence Ministry’s description.

The helicopter can fly at a maximum speed of 288 kmph and has a combat radius of 500 km, which can go up to a service ceiling of 21,000 feet, making it ideal to operate in Siachen. It incorporates several stealth features like reduced radar and infra-red signatures, crashworthy features for improved survivability, armoured-protection systems and night attack capability. The pilot and co-pilot, known as the Weapon Systems Operator (WSO), sit in tandem in a glass cockpit and are protected by armoured panels. Other features include:

- 20 mm nose gun in the front, which is capable of firing 800 rounds per minute with a firing range up to 2 km

- 70 mm rocket pod mounted on the stub wing, with a direct firing range of up to 4 km and indirect up to 8 km. 

- Above the gun is an electro-optical pod for long-range day and night surveillance and tracking of the target

- Anti-tank guided missile ‘Dhruvastra’ and air-to-air missile ‘Mistral-2’ which has a maximum interception range of 6.5 km.

- Prachand helicopters can be deployed to assume air defence, anti-tank roles in high-altitude, counter-insurgency, and search and rescue operations, and are equipped with advanced technology which can be used to destroy the enemy’s air defence.

- Prachand is equipped with requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, high altitude performance and around-the-clock, all-weather combat capability.

- It can be deployed to perform Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), bunker busting operations, counter-insurgency operations in the jungle and urban areas and support the ground forces.

“The negotiations are going on, and nothing concrete can be said at the moment. The Indian team is still in Argentina. But the Argentinians had shown interest in Prachand during the Aero-India air show in 2023,” a HAL official said, requesting anonymity.