LCH inching closer to IOC; first LSP chopper by 2018

By Dr Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru: The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) from the stables of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is inching closer to its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC).

Speaking to Mathrubhumi, Dr M Vijaya Kumar, Executive Director, Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre, HAL said that the fourth technology demonstrator (TD-4) is very close to the delivery standards.

“The IOC is expected any time now and the first limited series production (LSP) copter should be coming out by 2018.” says Dr Kumar. He said the production drawings for LSP have been finalised.

Better speed and handling qualities now

On the design changes undergone on variants so far, Dr Kumar said that the armament boom on the prototypes has been made more aerodynamic in shape to improve the speed and handling qualities of the helicopter.

“We have also worked on the vibration levels. The door design has been optimised with lot of visual cues now,” says Dr Kumar. He further said that the LCH has successfully demonstrated its rocket firing capabilities during IAF exercise Iron Fist in March 2016 at Jaisalmer and ground firing of Turret gun was completed in December 2016.

“LCH is the first attack helicopter which landed at an altitude of 4.5 km in the Himalayas with considerable load of weapons and fuel,” says Dr Kumar.

User pilots part of development, firing trials

As per the current plans, IAF would get 10 LSP variants while the Indian Army five. HAL says a total of 65 LCHs are needed for IAF and nearly 100 for the Indian Army.

“The indigenous products -- Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and LCH are useful for high altitude operations. The user pilots are part of the development and firing trials,” he adds.

HAL has now dedicated the first prototype (TD-1) exclusively for indigenization efforts.

Upgraded ALH civil version getting ready

To a query on the civil version of ALH, Dr Kumar said the Mk-I version of ALH Civil is being upgraded to Mk-III version and discussions are on with DGCA for the certification. He said various civil operators and BSF have expressed interest for the upgraded version.

“We have now separated helicopter production and MRO. The production line has become stable and standardized. We have built a robust eco system to support helicopter manufacturing in HAL. A separate production line for ALH is also coming up in HAL Kanpur Division,” says Dr Kumar.

HAL’s helicopter product range looks bright

K G Kumaraswamy, Additional General Manager, Head of Projects, RWRDC, said the lessons learnt from ALH are having a great bearing on LCH and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) projects, towards improving the product design.

RWRDC has currently three projects – the ALH, LCH and LUH. During the upcoming Aero India, a 1:1 mock-up of the 24-seater Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) will be displayed for the first time.

HAL hopes to have the first flight of IMRH in six to seven years with three different variants. With this, HAL would be enhancing its indigenous helicopter product range from 3 tonne to 12 tonne category.

(The writer is the Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English Online) and tweets @writetake.)

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