India has just reached an important milestone in rotary-wing military aviation. Local manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) delivered the first Prachand attack helicopter to the Indian Army on Monday, placing the country among a select group of nations that have the capacity to build that type of aircraft.
A program that began more than 20 years ago, the Prachand (Fierce in Hindi) is the first attack helicopter designed and built in India. The aircraft is part of the Indian Armed Forces Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) program. The initial batch of 15 helicopters will be split between the Army (five units) and the Air Force (10).
The LCH, as the model is referred to by Indian forces, is a multi-role combat helicopter manufactured by the HAL Helicopter Division in Bangalore. The start of the project, which had been discussed in India since the early 1990s, was formalized in 2004 and the first prototype flew on March 29, 2010.
According to HAL, the helicopter is designed for all-weather operations and fulfills a long list of tasks: combat search and rescue, destruction of air defense systems, combat against insurgency, interception of low-performance aircraft and drones. , support for ground troops, among others.
To this end, the Prachand can be armed with rockets, air-to-air and anti-tank missiles and bombs, in addition to the 20 mm cannon with a mobile turret in the nose, the primary weapon of every attack helicopter.
Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative
The LCH specs have interesting figures. The helicopter commanded by two crew members (pilot and weapons officer) takes off with a maximum weight of 5,800 kg, including 1,750 kg of armaments. The propulsion comes from two turbines of 1,384 hp each produced locally by HAL in partnership with Turbomeca that take the aircraft to a maximum speed of 330 km/h and up to 6,500 meters altitude. The Prachand’s combat range is 550 km or three hours and 10 minutes of flight time.
The LCH and other military programs underway in India are part of the so-called “Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative”, a plan to make the country self-sufficient, especially in the area of defense. Another important project in India is the HAL Tejas fighter.