HAL to supply 12 light utility helicopters to armed forces, Army wants more Apache Gunships

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has received the Letter of Intent from the Services for the manufacture of 12 Light Utility Helicopters which have been designed and developed indigenously. At the same time, nine Light Combat Helicopters have been manufactured against the sanction of 15 limited series production variants and are in the process of being handed over to the Services.

In another development, the Army is in negotiations for acquiring 11 more Apache AH-64E attack helicopters from the US. Production work has begun. Two Light Utility Helicopters are in an advanced stage of completion.

In addition, the Request For Quotation for the larger order for Light Utility Helicopters has also been issued. HAL is in the process of responding to the Request For Quotation and expects to conclude the related issues in one or two years. Last November, the Defence Acquisition Council approved the procurement of an initial lot of 12 Light Utility Helicopters, six each for the Army and the Air Force.

LCH induction

In June, the Army raised its first LCH squadron in Bengaluru which will move to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Command once complete next year. “Of the 15 LSP on order, nine LCH have been produced. They are in acceptance stage,” HAL sources said. As of now the Army is looking at acquiring around 111 LUH and 95 LCH, officials stated. Army sources had said that seven LCH units are planned for combat role in the mountains, with each having 10 helicopters. The IAF is also scheduled to raise its first LCH squadron in the next few months.

More Apache attack helicopters

The Cabinet Committee on Security had earlier given sanction for the procurement of 39 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the US. Following this, IAF had inducted 22 Apaches procured under a deal signed in September 2015. The government had ruled that any further Apache procurements would go to the Army. In line with this, India signed a deal for six more Apaches at a cost of around $800 million in February 2020. Deliveries which were to begin in the first half of 2023 have been delayed by around 10 months due to the pandemic. They are now scheduled to arrive in early 2024.

In addition, the Army is pushing the case for the remaining 11 Apaches of the 39 sanctioned, the official added. A senior official of aircraft manufacturer Boeing had recently confirmed that they were in talks with the Indian Army for additional Apaches.

The Army has three Aviation Brigades at Leh, Missamari and Jodhpur. It operates around 145 indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), 75 of which are the Rudra-weaponised variants. Another 25 ALH Mk-III are on order and scheduled to be inducted within two years. The Army operates around 190 Cheetah, Chetak and Cheetal helicopters and are in dire need of their replacement, while the IAF operates close to 140 of them.

In all, the IAF operates a wide mix of around 500 rotary platforms which includes around 90 Mi-17s, over 130 Mi-17V5s, over 70 ALH, including the weaponised variants, 22 Apaches, one squadron of Mi-35 attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopters.

In the utility helicopter category, the Army and the IAF together have a requirement of more than 400 helicopters and are meant to replace the vintage Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in service. This requirement was to be met jointly by the LUH and the 200 Ka-226T utility helicopters to be built with technology transfer from Russia.

However, the Ka-226T deal has been delayed by several years over indigenisation issues and with the LUH now ready and the geopolitical situation due to the war in Ukraine, the deal is all set to be dropped, officials had stated. The LUH has come up well, but will take time for sufficient numbers to come in, Army sources had stated.

Source : The Hindu

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