Ahead of its annual day on October 8, the Indian Air Force is getting set to formally raise the first unit of the indigenous Light Combat Helicopters in Jodhpur.
While the IAF is still in the process of finalizing the number of LCHs to be acquired, the first unit will have ten helicopters. These helicopters are expected to replace the ageing Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters. According to reports, with the induction of 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, one of the squadrons of the Russian helicopters has been replaced and the existing Mi-35 squadron is soon going to be sent for the overhaul for extending its life cycle.
In June this year, the Indian Army has already raised its first LCH squadron in Bengaluru and the unit is expected to move to Eastern Command along the Line of Actual Control on the completion of the raising in 2023. The army’s requirement is 95 machines in seven units. Typically each unit has 10 helicopters, and these are expected to be deployed in combat roles in mountainous terrain.
Financial Express Online had reported in March on the approval given by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for the procurement of 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) variants of the LCH. These 15 machines are coming at a cost of Rs 3,887 crore, there will be an infrastructure worth Rs 377 crore.
Designed, developed and manufactured by HAL, the IAF will get 10 helicopters and the Indian Army will get five for the Army. On board the indigenous content is about 45 percent by value and this is expected to go up to 55 percent for Series Production Version.
For the Indian Army, the LCH is the first dedicated attack helicopter in its fleet. It operates 75 Rudra helicopters, and has the weaponised variant of the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter. In 2024, the Army is expected to start receiving Apache attack helicopters from the US through Foreign Military Sales route. It has contracted for six under an approximate $800 million deal from the US in 2020 and is also in talks with the US Boeing Company for the procurement of 11 additional Apache helicopters.