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Milestones: India's Light Combat Helicopter

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's new Light Combat Helicopter has been developed to provide troops with close air support. (2022 Janes/Akhil Kadidal)

The multi-purpose Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) developed by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is being inducted into the Indian military after two decades of development.

The Indian Air Force formally inducted the LCH at a ceremony at Air Force Station Jodhpur in early October. The Indian Army took delivery of its first LCH in late September.

Senior officials have said that the helicopter will give the Indian military the ability to provide troops with close air support even at high-altitude locations in the Himalayas. However, the project suffered delays because of redesigns and challenges associated with reducing the weight of the aircraft.

According to the original specifications, the LCH was projected to have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 5,500 kg (12,125 lb). However, the first technology demonstrator (TD) prototype was 580 kg overweight.

Officially launched in February 2003, the LCH programme began weapons testing four years later using a HAL Dhruv helicopter as a surrogate. The first prototype (TD-1) conducted its first flight in March 2010. A second prototype (TD-2) was assigned the task of continuing weapons testing. However, this aircraft, which was intended to be flown first in September 2010, did not fly until June 2011.

According to Janes data, these first two prototypes conducted about 170 flights by February 2013. HAL's efforts to further reduce the weight of the aircraft prompted the development of TD-3. Construction of this third prototype began in 2012.

HAL said at the time that TD-3 achieved a further reduction in the MTOW. The company also focused on optimising the cockpit area, based on inputs from end-users. Janes

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