The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to formally raise its first unit of indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCHs) in Jodhpur in the first week of October coinciding with Air Force Day on October 8.
Ten LCHs will be inducted in the first batch completing one unit, a defence official said on Monday. The IAF is still working out the total number of LCHs to be acquired, the official stated.
The IAF operates the older Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, of which one squadron has been phased out following the induction of 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. The existing Mi-35 squadron is in the process of being sent for overhaul which will extend its life by many years, the official stated.
The Army had already raised its first LCH squadron on June 1, 2022 in Bangalore. As reported by The Hindu earlier, the unit will move to Eastern Command along the Line of Actual Control (LCH) on completion of the raising next year.
The Army plans to acquire 95 LCHs of which seven units, each having 10 helicopters, are planned to be deployed for combat role in the mountains.
In March 2022, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had approved procurement of 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) variants of the LCH at the cost of ₹3,887 crore along with infrastructure sanctions worth ₹377 crore. Of the 15 helicopters, 10 are for the IAF and five for the Army. The LCH is designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The Defence Ministry had stated earlier that the LCH LSP is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured state-of-the-art modern combat helicopter containing approximately 45% indigenous content by value which will progressively increase to more than 55% for Series Production Version.
The LCH is the first dedicated attack helicopter of the Army, which otherwise operates 75 Rudra helicopters, the weaponised variant of the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter. It will start receiving Apache attack helicopters from early 2024 onwards, six of which have been contracted under an estimated $800 million deal from the U.S. in February 2020. It is also in talks with Boeing for the procurement of 11 additional Apache helicopters.