LCH Prachand: India to buy 156 locally made combat helicopters


RFP for 156 LCH Prachand Combat Helicopters: India’s quest for self-reliance in defense manufacturing takes a significant leap forward with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for a staggering 156 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) christened “Prachand.” This large-scale order marks the culmination of a long-standing program aimed at developing a potent attack helicopter specifically designed for the nation’s demanding high-altitude borders. The final order is expected to be in the range of Rs 45,000 crore (approximately $5.4 billion).

The LCH program, spearheaded by HAL, a public sector undertaking, arose from the lessons learned during the Kargil War of 1999. The conflict exposed the Indian Armed Forces’ lack of a suitable armed helicopter capable of operating unrestricted in the harsh Himalayan environment. This critical need spurred the development of a domestic solution, leading to the LCH program’s inception in the early 2000s.

The journey of the Prachand wasn’t without its challenges. The program faced delays, a common theme in large-scale defense projects. However, perseverance paid off. The first prototype successfully took to the skies in March 2010, marking a pivotal moment in Indian aviation history.

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Prachand light combat helicopter of Indian Air Force.

IAF’s Prachand helicopter.

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The Prachand: A Force Multiplier for Indian Forces

The Prachand boasts an array of features that make it a valuable asset for the Indian military. Here’s a closer look at what makes this helicopter stand out:

Unmatched High-Altitude Performance: HAL takes pride in claiming the Prachand is the world’s only attack helicopter capable of operating at a staggering service ceiling of over 6,500 meters (21,300 feet). This exceptional capability makes it perfectly suited for India’s mountainous borders, particularly the strategically significant Siachen Glacier and the Eastern Ladakh region.

Multi-Role Versatility: The Prachand is a true multi-role combat helicopter, adaptable to various battlefield scenarios. It can be deployed for offensive tasks like destroying enemy air defenses, engaging slow-moving aircraft and drones, and providing close air support to ground troops during combat operations.

Indigenous Design and Development: One of the most significant aspects of the Prachand is its status as a symbol of India’s growing self-sufficiency in defense technology. The helicopter is a testament to the nation’s engineering prowess and its commitment to reducing reliance on foreign-made weaponry.

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LCH Prachand at Siachen Glacier.

LCH Prachand at Siachen Glacier.

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The Recent Order: A Boost for Domestic Defense and Potential for Exports

The MoD‘s recent RFP for 156 Prachands signifies a crucial step forward in bolstering India’s aerial defense capabilities. The order will be split between the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, with 90 units going to the Army and 66 to the IAF. This significant addition to their arsenals will significantly enhance their offensive capabilities, particularly in high-altitude regions.

The large-scale order also sends a strong message to potential foreign buyers who have expressed interest in the Prachand. Countries like Argentina and the Philippines have already shown keen interest in acquiring this versatile helicopter.  A successful export program could not only generate revenue for HAL but also establish India as a credible exporter of defense equipment.

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Looking Ahead: A Busy HAL and a Self-Reliant Future

While fulfilling this substantial LCH order, HAL has its hands full. The company is also gearing up for the first delivery of 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to the IAF.  With the Indian government’s renewed focus on domestic defense production, the future seems bright for HAL. This not only ensures greater control over the nation’s defense needs but also fosters technological advancements and creates high-skilled jobs within the Indian aerospace sector.

The Prachand program and the recent order represent a significant milestone in India’s journey towards self-reliance in defense manufacturing. The helicopter’s impressive capabilities and the potential for exports highlight India’s growing prowess in the aviation sector. As HAL fulfills these orders and embarks on future endeavors, the nation can look forward to a future where its defense needs are met with technologically advanced, domestically produced solutions.

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*1 USD = INR 83.11.

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