In the light of border tensions, two Light Combat Helicopters developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have been deployed for operations at high altitude in Leh to support Indian Air Force missions. The operational requirement was met in a short notice.
R. Madhavan, CMD, HAL, on Wednesday, said: "It is the lightest attack helicopter in the world, designed and developed by HAL to meet the specific and unique requirements of the Indian Armed Forces, reflecting the crucial role of HAL in Atma Nirbhar Bharat."
Recently, the Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Harjit Singh Arora, took part in one such operation along with HAL test pilot, Wg Cdr (Retd) Subash P. John, by taking-off from high altitude location to a forward area for a simulated attack on a high altitude target.
This was followed by a landing at one of the most treacherous helipads in the region. The Light Combat Helicopters successfully demonstrated its quick deployment prowess to forward locations in extreme temperatures.
In the IAF, the LCH is a potent weapon platform because of its state-of-the-art systems and highly accurate weapons that are capable of hitting any type of target by day or night.
The IAF and the Indian Army together need around 160 Light Combat Helicopters. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had approved the proposal for an initial batch of 15 Light Combat Helicopters. Consequently, the IAF issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) helicopters (10 for IAF and 5 for Army).
Technical evaluation and the price negotiations have been concluded and HAL expects to deliver shortly. As a proactive measure, HAL had already launched production of Limited Series Production in anticipation of the orders at its Bengaluru facility.
In May, the IAF had operationalised a second fighting squadron of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) at Sulur. Though there seems to be a lot to cheer about the development, defence experts and the veterans believe that the 'IAF is not in a fit state'amid the escalating tension at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
As of now, the fighting squadrons of the IAF is down to 30 against the requirement of 42 squadrons.
Former AOC-in-C training command, IAF and defence expert, Air Marshal (retd) BK Pandey, said, "With no project underway and the older fleet getting obsolete the IAF is in distress. The second fighter squadron of the LCA will be a breather. The major concern is China. Though there may not be a full scale war, a possibility of skirmishes will be there and Pakistan may take advantage of it. We are not prepared to meet the Chinese threat". Pandey also opined that the IAF will constantly need upgraded number of fighter aircraft.