Light Combat Helicopter being built for Rs 125 crore each, one-third the cost of the Apache - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 29 September 2020

Light Combat Helicopter being built for Rs 125 crore each, one-third the cost of the Apache

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 30th Sept 20


In a double assertion of its proficiency in building different kinds of helicopters, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) on Monday achieved two significant landmarks: The company rolled out its 300th Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) for the military; and also conducted the inaugural ground run of the first Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) it is series-producing for the Indian Air Force (IAF).


While the Dhruv, with over 280,000 flying hours logged, is already the backbone of the IAF and army’s light helicopter fleet, the LCH is a crucial new induction that would play an important role in any armed confrontation between Indian and Chinese troops on the Ladakh border, or in the looming militarization of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).


The LCH project was sanctioned after the 1999 Kargil War, when a dire need was felt for a weapons platform that could provide dedicated fire support to army soldiers at high altitudes, who can carry only a limited amount of weaponry. The Ministry of Defence accordingly sanctioned the LCH project in October 2006.


Fourteen years later, the LCH has become a reality. Business Standard learns that HAL has agreed to build the first 15 “limited series production” LCH for about Rs 125 crore per helicopter – about one-third the cost of each of the 28 AH-64E Apaches attack helicopters the government is importing from The Boeing Company.


True, the Apache is a bigger, more heavily armed gunship with more advanced avionics and battle-tested night fighting capabilities. But, for those reasons, it is expensive and the army and IAF will be making up the numbers with LCHs.


The military is still to sign a contract for 15 LCHs, but HAL has decided to start building the helicopters with its own funds. HAL’s board has sanctioned Rs 1,800 crore for this and production is well along.


A key attribute of the 5.8-tonne LCH is its ability to fly and fight at the altitudes the army is deployed at. In tests conducted in the Siachen Glacier sector, the LCH has demonstrated its capability to land and take off at altitudes of 5,000 metres with sufficient fuel and weaponry for combat missions against even higher targets.


Driving this performance is the LCH’s twin Shakti engines, especially designed by French firm, Safran, to deliver extra power at high altitudes.


That makes the LCH an ideal platform for providing infantry soldiers fire support in 15,000-16,000 feet-high contested areas such as Depsang, Galwan and the heights north and south of the Pangong Tso, where Indian soldiers are facing off against Chinese intruders.


The military has already projected to HAL an eventual requirement of 65 LCH for the IAF and 97 for the army.


For such a small, light helicopter, the LCH is a formidable fighting machine. Its two pilots, who are seated one behind the other in a slim tandem cockpit, can choose between a menu of weapons that they fire using a helmet pointing system that lets a pilot aim at a target just by looking at it. 


The LCH’s weapons options include a nose-mounted, 20-millimetre turret gun; or 70-millimetre rockets; or air-to-air missiles that it carries on stub wings. The LCH is the first helicopter to fire air-to-air missiles against a flying target.


The LCH is also designed to carry anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that can knock out enemy tanks at ranges of up to seven kilometres.


Allowing it to survive on a battlefield where it will be a prized target, the LCH is protected by a range of devices. The pilots are shielded against ground fire by armoured panels around the cockpit and by a bulletproof windshield. The LCH has self-sealing fuel tanks that automatically seal up bullet holes with a rubber compound. It has damage-tolerant rotor blades and a main gearbox that can run for 30 minutes even after a bullet hit drains out all its oil.


The LCH is also fitted with an electronic warfare (EW) system that detects enemy missiles; and then scatters flares and chaff as decoys to lure the incoming missile away from the helicopter. 


  1. You should have an analysis of Sakthi engines - indigenous , imported or assembled and if imported the value addition component , mid life engine change, the strength of the frame, reliability of HAL ETC.,

  2. India should buy Apache instead; building helicopter itself not only is waste of money, but also make India look even more incompetent than it already is.

    1. How do u know that the lch is incompetant? Have u personally flown it? Dont judge a book by its cover.

    2. I burst out laughing reading this comment. But then no, R&D and local manufacturing is important. The govt should create exclusive defence zones and encourage private firms to invest, but with a condition that the Indian govt.has a say in the sales, especially foreign sales. Also, rejig the public sector companies. Keep the socialist benefits for the employees without the socialist structure, lethargy and incompetence that comes with it.

    3. What exactly is the rationale here?

    4. Wow you really are a patriot,remember every country went through the same churning while coming out with innovations and creation.
      Today the Tejas ot the Alh find mention globally because some one decided to support indigenous geniuses.

    5. You are totally wrong...first of all you should know about need of indian army which will be not completed by Apache helicopters..because it is not used at high altitude..Instead of you should encourage our indian products..because of this we shall decrease our dependency on foreign countries for new technologies and weapons which is expensive..I think you are always go with think carefully this is not your branded jeens and t shirts..grow up..know the real truth..

    6. Seriously 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣 bro HAL need funds. And see the magic .....kab tak duaro per nirbhar rahenge

  3. Why don't you guy realise that unless we ourselves build helicopters we will never be able to build Apache helicopter in future. We need indigenous technology to be self-reliant an cost efficient.

  4. Great achievement for make in India & HAL. It will make a knowledge base for more bigger achievements

  5. I do not agree for depending on Imports. It's high time we use our own brilliant manpower and build our own defence equipments with our own technologies. HAL needs to increase their production capacities in war footing way to clear of their pending orders within 6 Months and not to complete by 2024 as I understand. Nations security is the priority. All redundant workforce to be revamped and filled with energetic nationalistic skilled youth of the nation and duly honoured with good Salary and perks.Research and innovation should go hand in hand and there should be no funds problem any time, to get the project completed on time. Private companies should be allowed for competition under control of GOI. Jai Hind.

  6. We should appreciate for any indigenous production of defence equipments with continueing developement to avoid paying cutmoney and to save from spending dollars.Quality always achieved better by endless efforts on any product as as per engineering practice.In early stage there might be some defects but it does'nt mean that it should not be produced.

  7. I think before commenting you should think about china? They are incompetent in technology but still making their own fighters and you are using Chinese incompetent mobile phone.

    How many hospitals can one of them build, how many free school meals can one of them support, how many health clinics can be built using the money spent on one of them.
    We have got to be statesmanlike, and settle the border issue, India has a myriad of the problems that are not going to go away, let us make rational decisions for the benefit of our population.
    India to build one of these has to make ten times the sacrifice as China, China is a rich country It can in afford spent 10 times as much as India on defence
    You must stop dreaming and be pragmatic and realistic.

  9. Totally misplaced article. This article discounts the profit margin of the company manufacturing Apache. It should be comparing the manufacturing cost rather than the selling or buying cost. That will show how cost-effective a product is. HAL IS A DRAIN ON INDIAN RESOURCES.

  10. Great job HAL Proud of you.. Many dalals in India and abroad are trying their best to destroy HAL so that they can destroy India capacity to develop master jet technology.
    Despite all odds HAL is doing it's very best.
    Great days, ahead.. Salute HAL..

  11. LCH is good fighter helicopter for first gen development and HAL can improve on it by later versions with better avionics and electronic suite etc

  12. Commendable and herculean achievement by HAL.To manufacture new LCHs by their own funds is perhaps incredible.Thanks HAL,the Indian heroes.

  13. Dear anonymous, taking steps towards self reliance is most e thing to do. Import is still the backbone. But to redicule is childish on your part. Don't be myopic in your thought process.

  14. HAL is a very competitive manufacturing firm for the defence sector. Congrats on the LCH and wish you all the best in the near future I hope to see an Apache alike chopper being made in India totally indigenous and in large numbers . Appreciate all the good work HAL is doing for our armed forces...

  15. I'm UK, outside of this, but they are buying some Apaches. Think, if you owned a Ferrari you would also have a practical daily for 85% of circumstances. These are "dailies".

  16. It's better to have our own flatforms instead of depending on the imported helicopters. The total life cycle cost is very high compared to our own helicopters. We have proven to the world that we are the best in the world.

  17. India should attempt a civilian version for air taxi to scale up production and eliminate idle time

  18. Very unsavoury comment indeed.

  19. An achievement for our country. But comparing the cost and capabilities with an Apache is like comparing a Maruti 800 and a Mercedes-Benz.Obviously a Maruti will be way cheaper. Please me more realistic while comparing. Can highlight an achievement without unrealistic and exaggerated comparison.


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