In a major boost to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL’s) efforts towards developing a combat helicopter for the Armed Forces, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) being developed for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army achieved a unique milestone by successfully carrying out air to air missile firing on a moving aerial target. The tests, which were conducted in integrated test range at Chandipur, Odisha, saw an LCH platform piloted by Wg Cdr Subash P John, VM (Retd), test pilot, Col Ranjit Chitale, (Retd), Flight Test Engineer from HAL and Gp Capt Rajeev Dubey, test pilot from IAF firing an MBDA manufactured Mistral Air-to-Air Missile against a loitering aerial target.

HAL, the lead developmental agency, has termed the test firing a success and has in a statement said that the platform executed a flawless mission and achieved a direct hit on the aerial target, destroying it completely. Shri R Madhavan, CMD-HAL speaking about the tests said that this is the first time in the country that a helicopter has carried out air to air missile engagement. None of the helicopters with the military services in the country has demonstrated such a capability. With this, LCH has successfully completed all weapon integration tests and is ready for operational induction.

Light Combat Helicopter manufcatured by HAL.

HAL has already successfully proven other armaments of the LCH such as the 20mm Turret gun and 70 mm Rockets. LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world capable of operating at altitudes as high as Siachen glacier. Designed and developed by Rotary Wing Research & Design Centre (RWRDC) of HAL in response to the operational needs of Indian Armed Forces and its capabilities far exceed that of contemporary attack helicopters of its class.

The platform has received great feedback from both the users. The Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had recently acclaimed the platform for its performance. Equipped with Helmet mounted sight and a forward looking infrared sighting system, LCH pilots can now detect and destroy any target on ground or in the air. Using these sights, pilots can now launch a missile onto any target without having to turn the helicopter. The fire and forget missile is effective against all types of aerial threat, including UAVs and microlight aircraft. Capable of operating from dispersed locations and flying at ultra low levels, LCH can now effectively provide a protective umbrella from all aerial threats.

The LCH platform test firing the Mistral Air-to-Air Missile.

The DAC, the highest decision making body of the country in regards to defence acquisition, has already accorded approval for procurement of initial batch of 15 LCHs, wherein 10 of these platforms will enter service with the Air Force and the rest 5 will enter service with the Indian Army to support the armored columns.