Light Combat Helicopter gets cheaper with crucial indigenisation flight control system (AFCS) - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 1 February 2018

Light Combat Helicopter gets cheaper with crucial indigenisation flight control system (AFCS)

The Light Combat Helicopter flying on Wednesday with an HAL-developed "automatic flight control system"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st Feb 18

The indigenous Light Combat Helicopter, which is already a success story that has been ordered by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the army, logged an important breakthrough today by flying with an “automatic flight control system” (AFCS) designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

An AFCS is a powerful computer that keeps a helicopter flying stably, by sensing any deviation from level flight in microseconds, and sending flight controls the correctives needed to revert to stable flight.

So far, the LCH had been flying with an expensive, imported AFCS.

“The development of indigenous AFCS is a HAL-funded project and will replace the high value imported system,” said T Suvarna Raju, the chief of HAL.

HAL’s Mission Control Systems R&D Centre (MCSRDC), which has developed this system, is credited with a string of software development successes – notably the Jaguar fighter’s DARIN navigation-attack system that guides the aircraft with pinpoint accuracy to deliver bombs on a target hundreds of kilometers away.

HAL also announced on Wednesday that it had “indigenised the Cockpit Display System on LCH, namely the Integrated Architecture Display System (IADS) with the participation of Indian private industries.” This system, which is being flight tested, also replaces an expensive imported system.

These import-substitution measures are expected to cumulatively bring down the cost of the LCH from the Rs 231 crore per chopper that has been negotiated for the first 15 helicopters that the military ordered in December.

The LCH is one of HAL’s four major success stories in helicopter development. It started with the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH), which is the mainstay of the army aviation corps. That was followed by an armed version of the Dhruv, called the Rudra, which participated in the Republic Day flypast last week. Undergoing testing is the eponymous Light Utility Helicopter, which is in a race with the Russian Kamov-226T to enter production.

The LCH was accorded Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) on August 26, in the presence of the defence minister.

For the army, the LCH is a crucial force multiplier – by providing fire support at extremely high altitudes to Indian infantrymen, who can carry only limited weaponry in those rarefied altitudes. With an LCH at hand, they will benefit from its 20-millimetre turret gun, 70-millimetre air-to-ground rockets, and air-to-air and air-to-ground guided missiles.

The LCH, which is a 5.8-tonne, twin-engine helicopter will cost less than half the price of the AH-64E Apache, which the IAF has bought from Boeing, USA. The Apache is more heavily armed and armoured and has the sophisticated Longbow fire control radar. The LCH does not yet have radar, but HAL is in the process of developing one before mass production begins.


  1. I am very happy the way they have developed the LCH and trying to devlop it completely and soon they would have apache and so comparison can be made and the short. Comings can be removed. I feel HAL helicopter division has done well and brought out ALH , LUH and now getting the newer larger helicopter as well developing the helicopter engines. I strongly feel indiashould devlop the Ka 226 equivalent helicopter themselves along with LUH as having counter rotating blades are a huge advantage to land it in adverse circumstances and should have a detachable container that can just be detached and and left at forward post and the helicopter can quickly fly back and deliver another container. There should be a medical container where wounded soldiers be placed and an empty helicopter comes in and evacuates the medical container. The engine is already developed andwould be ready by next year and try to devlop a technological collaboration with the German company that has leading technology in counter rotating transmission and try to devlop the other version of the light utility helicopter on its own rather than a collaboration with draconian conditions and exorbitant price and than soon you realize that the technology that is given is substandard . With the successes HAL had in helicopter development I strongly feel they should devlop hundreds of different versions of helicopters themselves. They can do it and take some help in counter rotating transmission with some collaboration.


  2. State of defence acquisition:
    LCH is much, much smaller and then they will try to fit in everything to it. Radar, air-to-air missiles, Anti-submarine stuff, guns, jalebi making pan, rockets, anti-ship missiles, and then they will complain that it is too heavy and when the first one crashes it is unsafe. And then magically, a foreign helicopter will be ordered which "meets all parameters" and passes altitude, winter, summer, monsoon, spring, autumn, day, afternoon, evening, night trials in 1 month!

    One final excuse: Need for helicopter operations no longer exists. Drones are the thing now.....

  3. Great job by HAL. Their approach of developing systems such the helicopter engines 9with Safran), the AFCS and in future the radar is the right one, and will allow progressive evolution of their family of choppers, funded through their own financial reserves rather than being dependent on funds from the services. Something here to emulate in case if fighter aircraft as well i.e. let HAL take up Tejas Mk 2 and 3 rather than let it languish with the DRDO-IAF-MoD morass of indecision?

  4. NSR asks ---

    Can you shed some lights on engines used on Indian made helos?
    Does India build any helo engines like Shakthi on their own or still screw and bolt tech?
    Thank you.

  5. Buying big number of LCH will not help IA forces in all sectors, but also relieve IAF from ground support to a certain extent.
    Just hope these get armed with anti-tank, anti-bunker missiles quickly.


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