LCH Prachand

LCH Prachand

News: The Indian Air Force on Monday inducted the first batch of made-in-India light combat helicopters, which would be called 'Prachand'. This marks an important milestone, defense minister Rajnath Singh said, as the government's 'Atmanirbhar Abhiyan' expands in the defense sector.

About:
• The LCH was developed after around 20 years of research and development post Kargil War. The name Prachand means “fierce”.
• It was designed and developed by the state- owned defense company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
• This indigenously developed 5.5 tonne class combat helicopter is equipped with numerous stealth features, armored protection, night attack capability and landing gear capable of survival.
• It is a Twin-engine helicopter which is armed with air to air missiles, 20 mm turret guns, rocket systems and other weapons.
• It has extended range and high-altitude performance capability as well as the round-the-clock, all-weather combat capability.
• They have 45% indigenous content by value which will progressively increase to 55% and are equipped with HAL's Shakti engine, developed in collaboration with French engine-maker Safran.

Utility of LCH:
• Designed for high-altitude areas, the LCH can operate at 20,000 feet and perform combat, search and rescue roles. The helicopters will especially come in handy in boosting our defense infrastructure along the LAC with China.
• Two LCHS were even flight-tested in eastern Ladakh in 2020 amid the military confrontation with Beijing Helicopters are crucial given their versatility.

Limitations faced and what needs to be done?
• Much like the challenge faced with fighter jets, there is an urgent need to replace obsolete choppers, some of which, like the Chetak and Cheetah, are of 1960s-70s vintage.
• Then there is the huge dependency on Russian hardware. Given the war in Ukraine, this dependency puts India in a tough spot both in terms of maintenance and warding off US sanctions.
• India needs to not just diversify its import sources but also reduce its import bill. It is the largest importer of arms in the world and as the current volatility in global markets shows, large importers of any particular class of products - whether food or fuel or even armaments, which have a longer term horizon are particularly vulnerable.
• We are still way off from acquiring deep expertise in engine development, particularly in the jet engine segment after the failure of the indigenous Kaveri project.

Way Forward:
• The share of India's foreign defense purchases has come down by almost 21% in 2017-21 compared to 2012-16, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. But unless mastery of critical technologies is achieved, this share won't reduce further appreciably.
• LCH show what India can do in Defense manufacturing and what more it needs to do.

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