Helicopters (defence forces): India

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Major crashes

1963- 2021

Major Helicopter crashes in India, 1963- 2021
From: Dec 9, 2021: The Times of India

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Major Helicopter crashes in India, 1963- 2021

Arunachal Pradesh


Helicopter crashes in Arunachal Pradesh, 2009-22
From: Prabin Kalita, Oct 22, 2022: The Times of India

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Helicopter crashes in Arunachal Pradesh, 2009-22

2009- 23

Helicopter crashes in Arunachal Pradesh, 2009-23
From: March 17, 2023: The Times of India

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Helicopter crashes in Arunachal Pradesh, 2009-23

Cheetah helicopters

Status of fleet in 2016

Rajat Pandit: Dec 1, 2016: The Times of India

The status of the Cheetah helicopter fleet in 2016; Rajat Pandit: Dec 1, 2016: The Times of India

Aging, obsolete chopper fleets take toll on military 

Old and obsolete machines, whether they be fighters or helicopters, continue to exact a heavy toll in the armed forces. Three Army officers were killed and a soldier critically injured when their Cheetah helicopter crashed at Sukna military station in West Bengal on Wednesday , in yet another grim reminder of the military's ageing light utility helicopter fleets.

The Cheetah, being flown by Majors Sanjeev Lathar and Arvind Bazala, was about to land after a reconnaissance mission in forward areas when it crashed at 11.45 am.Lt-Colonel Rajneesh Kumar, posted in the operations wing of 33 Corps, was also killed in the crash, while sapper Dhamne Yogesh Bhaskar is in a critical condition at Bengdubi military hospital.

Incidentally , another Cheetah helicopter, which landed just before the ill-fated one, had the chief of staff of 33 Corps, Major General Vikal Shahni, on board. “There was a sudden technical snag in the chopper that crashed. It could be engine failure or tail-rotor cable rupture,“ said an officer.

Though the court of inqui ry will establish the exact cause, the crash once again underlines that the armed forces are being forced to fly old single-engine Cheetahs in the absence of modern twin-engine choppers. Failure of successive governments to take timely decisions, shoddy performance of defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and recurring corruption scandals have all combined to lead to this abysmal situation.

CheetahChetak light utility helicopters, in fact, are now increasingly being dubbed the “MiGs of the chopper fleets“ due to their high crash rates and poor serviceability .In March last year, a group of wives of Army officers had even petitioned defence minister Manohar Parrikar to stop the use of these “outdated“ helicopters to avoid casualties.

Based on the 1960s' technologies, Cheetahs are bereft of modern avionics like ILS (instrument landing), omnidirectional and ranging systems or FADEC (full authority digital engine controls). “Over 50% of choppers in Army aviation fleet are well over 30 years old.Moreover, it has just 70% of its authorised helicopter strength, which includes around 140 Cheetahs, 50 Chetaks and 80 Dhruv advanced light helicopters,“ said an officer.

After the procurement of 197 new light utility helicopters from aboard was scrapped three times over the last decade due to technical deviations and corruption allegations, the NDA government in August 2014 decided they would be “Made in India“ with foreign collaboration.

But the much-touted joint venture with Russia for 200 Kamov-226T light utility helicopters for around $1 billion is yet to kick off. While the first 60 choppers will come from Russia, the rest are to be produced in India over nine years.

In a double whammy , HAL is also far away from delivering 187 light helicopters it was supposed to make “within 60 months“ when another project was sanctioned by the Cabinet Committee on Security in February 2009.

Deployment in the Indian Defence Forces

Helicopter Fleets in the Indian Defence Forces

Helicopters deployed in rescue operations; The Times of India

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Helicopters deployed in rescue operations

Light combat helicopters


Rajat Pandit, March 31, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi: The PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the first-ever contract for 15 indigenously designed and manufactured light combat helicopters (LCHs) for the IAF and Army at a cost of Rs 3,887 crore, along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore. Ten of these weaponised twin-engine choppers in the weight class of 5-8 tonne are meant for the IAF, while the Army will get five. The overall requirement for such helicopters is pegged at 160 in the coming years.

Designed and developed by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), two LCHs were even deployed in eastern Ladakh in 2020 to flight-evaluate them amidst the still-continuing military confrontation with China.

Even before the actual approval, HAL had launched the “limited series production (LSP)” of the 15 LCHs at its Bengaluru facility in anticipation of the order. “The LSP choppers have 45% in- digenous content by value, which will progressively increase to more than 55% for the next version,” a defence ministry official said.

With the contract to be inked, as per the HAL. LCH is the only attack helicopter in its weight class in the world which can land and take-off at an altitude of 5,000-metre or 16,400-feet with a considerable load of weapons and fuel. Equipped with 70mm rockets, missiles and chin-mounted cannons, the MoD said the LCH has the requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, stealth features, high-altitude performance and around-theclock all-weather capabilities for several combat missions.

They range from destruction of enemy air defences, anti-tank operations and high- altitude bunker busting missions to counter-insurgency and search and rescue combat roles. “The LCH would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of IAF and Army, the officialsaid.

The LCH also had the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land at forward bases in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region, 4,700 meters above sea level with a 500-kg load. Such LCHs also figured in the defence ministry first negative arms import list or “positive indigenisation list” announced in August 2020, under which acquisition of 101 weapon systems and platforms from abroad will be progressively banned in the 2020-25 timeframe to bolster the fledgling domestic defence production sector.

Inducted into the IAF

Sushant Kulkarni, Oct 4, 2022: The Indian Express

Light Combat Helicopter inducted into Indian Air Force: its features, weapons

Here is the story of the Light Combat Helicopter's (LCH) development by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, its unique features, its importance as a strategic asset and the road it faces ahead.

The indigenous Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), capable of destroying enemy air defence, conducting counter insurgency strikes and much more, was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Jodhpur air base. The fleet of four helicopters was inducted at a ceremony in presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and other senior military officials. The helicopter will be called ‘Prachand’, which means fierce.

According to its makers, the LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world which can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 meters with a considerable load of weapons and fuel, meeting the specific requirements laid out by the Indian Armed Forces.

Here is the story of its development by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), its unique features, its importance as a strategic asset and the road it faces ahead.

Genesis of the Light Combat Helicopter

It was during the 1999 Kargil war that the need was first felt for a homegrown lightweight assault helicopter that could hold precision strikes in all Indian battlefield scenarios. This meant a craft that could operate in very hot deserts and also in very cold high altitudes, in counter-insurgency scenarios to full-scale battle conditions.

India has been operating sub 3 ton category French-origin legacy helicopters, Chetak and Cheetah, made in India by the HAL. These single engine machines were, primarily, utility helicopters. Indian forces also operate the Lancer, an armed version of Cheetah. In addition, the Indian Air Force currently operates the Russian origin Mi-17 and its variants Mi-17 IV and Mi-17 V5, with maximum take off weight of 13 tonnes, which are to be phased out starting 2028.

But the requirement was for a more agile, multi-role dedicated attack helicopter. After the initial deliberations, the government sanctioned the LCH project in October 2006, and HAL was tasked to develop it. The HAL’s Rotary Wing Research and Development Centre, which had already worked on the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruva and its weaponised version ALH Rudra, embarked upon the project.

The development of Light Combat Helicopter

The LCH has been designed as a twin-engine, dedicated combat helicopter of 5.8-ton class, thus categorised as light. It features a narrow fuselage and tandem — one behind the other — configuration for pilot and co-pilot. The copilot is also the Weapon Systems Operator (WSO). While LCH inherits many features of the ALH, it mainly differs in tandem cockpit configuration, making it sleeker. It also has many more state-of-art systems that make it a dedicated attack helicopter.

In the LCH’s journey towards clearance and induction by the IAF and the Army, extensive flight testing has been carried out on four prototypes, also known as Technology Demonstrators (TDs).

The first Technology Demonstrator was completed in February 2010 and took its first flight on March 29 the same year. TD-2 prototype, completed around 2012, successfully passed the cold weather trials at high altitude. TD-3 and TD-4 prototypes, completed around 2014 and 2015, successfully tested other flight test requirements.

HAL officials said that the flight testing was carried out at various altitudes, from sea level to the Siachen range, in extreme cold and hot weather conditions, and in desert regions. During these tests, integration of mission sensors such as electro-optical system, helmet-mounted display system, solid state data and video recorder, and weapon systems such as turret gun, rockets and air-to-air missile systems was carried out. Weapon firing trials were also completed. The four prototypes have together undergone over 2,000 flights with close to 1600 flight hours.

Initial operational clearance came in 2017 for the IAF variant and in 2019 for the Army variant. In August 2020, the MoD added LCH to the items under import embargo. In November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi symbolically handed over the LCH to the Indian Air Force, paving the way for its final induction.

In March this year, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved procurement of 15 LCH Limited Series Production (LSP) — 10 for IAF and five for Army — at the cost of Rs 3,887 crore along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore.

Features, significance of the Light Combat Helicopter

LCH has the maximum take-off weight of 5.8 tonnes, maximum speed of 268 kilometers per hour, range of 550 kilometers, endurance of over three hours and service ceiling — the maximum density altitude to which it can fly — of 6.5 kilometres.

The helicopter uses radar-absorbing material to lower radar signature and has a significantly crash-proof structure and landing gear. A pressurised cabin offers protection from nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) contingencies.

The helicopter is equipped with a countermeasure dispensing system that protects it from enemy radars or infrared seekers of the enemy missiles. As far as weapons systems are concerned, a 20 mm turret gun, 70 mm rockets and air-to-air missile systems are onboard.

LCH is powered by two French-origin Shakti engines manufactured by the HAL.

With these features, the LCH has the capabilities of combat roles such as destruction of enemy air defence, counter insurgency warfare, combat search and rescue, anti-tank, and counter surface force operations.

The road ahead

According to HAL there is a projected requirement of 160 LCHs — 65 for IAF and 95 for Indian Army. After receiving a contract for the LSP in March, some units have already been delivered and the rest are at various stages of acceptance. HAL has said that it has drawn a detailed masterplan for achieving the peak rate production capacity of 30 helicopters per year in order to produce the remaining 145 LCHs in eight years from the date of signing of Series Production order.

The LCH was formally inducted into the Army on September 29 at Bangalore and into the IAF at Jodhpur.

For export, the HAL has already obtained a no objection certificate from the Ministry of Defence for countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Angola, Egypt, Indonesia, Ecuador and Nigeria, sources have said.

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