India talking to African countries on HAL Light Combat Helicopter


India is apparently in talks with African countries interested in its Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), which is edging closer to production.

According to the Press Trust of India, an unnamed senior defence official said some African countries have shown interest in the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) LCH and the defence ministry is in talks with them as the aircraft is good value for money.

The LCH is still under development, with weapons trials expected in July-August this year. Weapons trials are part of the helicopter’s certification process.

The Indian Army has ordered 114 and the Indian Air Force 65.

The LCH is a derivative of HAL’s the Dhruv light transport helicopter. Although developing the LCH from the Dhruv was intended to save costs and time, the timetable has slipped – largely due to problems with excess weight. First flight of the Turbomeca/HAL Ardiden 1H (Shakti) powered aircraft took place in March 2010, a year behind schedule.

An important feature of the LCH is its ceiling of 6 000 metres (19 700 ft), considerably greater than the Mi-24’s 4 500 metres (14 800 ft). It retains the Dhruv airframe except for a new forward fuselage with tandem crew seating. The LCH features the same weapons system as the Dhruv Weapon System Integrated (WSI) version, which includes a Nexter 20 mm M621 cannon mounted in a THL 20 turret under the nose. Stub wings carry four twin anti-tank guided missile launchers for 7 km (4 mile) range Helina anti-tank missiles, four 70 mm (2.75 in) rocket pods and a pair of twin air-to-air missile launchers for Mistral missiles. Other key features of the helicopter include stealth, a glass cockpit, armour protection, crashworthiness and avionics for night operations (CCD TV, FLIR and laser rangefinder/designator).