QUORA DIARIES:ATTACK CHOPPER FLEET OF INDIA: A FORCE TO RECKON

The attack helicopters of our country is mainly shared by two divisions of Armed Force: Air Force and Army Aviation Corps.

The following are operated by each of them:

INDIAN AIR FORCE:

  • Mil Mi-35:20–25 Nos

  • Apache(To be added soon):22 Nos.

  • HAL LCH: 65 on order

  • Mil Mi-17 (Multi-role chopper ):400+:These are more of a defensive role. Took Part as active attack chopper in Kargil War.

INDIAN ARMY AVIATION CORPS:

  • HAL RUDRA: 40–50

  • HAL LANCER(Attack version of HAL Cheetal made in 2000):12–15

  • HAL LCH: 115 order.(IOC expected in August 2017)

  • Apache(6 cleared for acqusition):

So ,

  • attack choppper in CAS+Anti Armour=(40–50)+(20–25)+(12–20)=72 to 95
    • Includes Mi-24,Lancers and Rudras.Answer will be edited accordingly once LCH production start on 26/8/2017
  • Defensive Attack Choppers: Atleast 200–300
    • Considering upto 70% of Mi-17 can be converted to weaponised form.

As we can see that the CAS+ Anti armour roles can be undertaken only by Mis and Rudra, the LANCER is more for a CAS job. Out of these the RUDRA only has a proper EW suite rest the LANCER can do job in secured air space, nevertheless Mi-24 is a flying Tank it depends on Raw muscle power i.e armor and Firepower and act as frontline anti Armor support. The numbers though are not so satisfying and are little over 90. Though closer to our adversaries ,but we need more. To add up to these 33 Apaches+180 LCH will be procured in coming years.

Story behind the delay in LCH:

Before there was LCH, there existed another programme LAH(Light Attack Helicopter), which later became LCH.

Story as explained by Prasun K Sengupta:

It is not the Ministry of Defence-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) that has screwed up, but it is the Indian Air Force (IAF) that has deliberately sabotaged the development of what was originally envisaged as India’s homegrown light attack helicopter (LAH) by, on one hand, vehemently opposing the induction of such a weapons platform by the Indian Army’s Aviation Corps (AAC), and on the other by drafting a ridiculous ASQR that had permanently changed the helicopter’s design/performance parameters from those of a LAH to those for a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) back in 2010. The MoD-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has been associated with the tedious and long-drawn process of designing, developing and series-producing the ‘Dhruv’ advanced light helicopter, had all along believed that the ‘Dhruv’ 5-tonne multi-role light medium twin-engined design does not represent a zero-sum game, that it is possible to wrap a slim, tandem-seat fuselage around the existing twin-engined powerplant, transmission and rotor systems of this proven helicopter and derive two distinct derivatives: a multi-task LAH; and a single-engined armed aeroscout-cum light utility machine (LOH/LUH) capable of operating in the plains (for operating in tandem with fast-moving mechanised and armoured formations) and over jungle terrain in support of special operations forces, and also taking part in combat search-and-rescue operations. Yet, since early 2003, the IAF kept insisting that the AAC’s requirement for LAHs was unjustifiable (since the IAF already operated a fleet of attack helicopters like the Mi-35P and Mi-25) and its views ultimately prevailed over the MoD, which ruled that not only would the LAH option be axed in favour of the LCH, but the AAC’s existing and projected fleets of LOHs would have to synchronise their flight operations with the IAF’s existing and projected attack helicopter fleets. When Army HQ protested to the MoD, a face-saving compromise was arrived at, this being that the AAC was authorised to acquire 76 ‘Dhruv Mk4’/’Rudra’ helicopter gunships that would, in essence, entail the needless modification of the ‘Dhruv’ utility helicopter into an armed machine capable of housing no more than four anti-armour guided-missiles (this being the DRDO HELINA, which remains elusive till this day and may eventually be replaced by either the Spike-ER from RAFAEL of Israel, or the PARS-3LR from MBDA), or an alternate armaments package comprising a chin-mounted 20mm THL-20 cannon supplied by Nexter Systems, twin rocket pods housing 2.75-inch rockets supplied by Belgium’s FZ, and four Mistral ATAM air-to-air missiles from MBDA. Needless to say, the decision to develop the ‘Rudra’ was not only financially unwise, but it is also unlikely to translate into any operational gains for the Army. All this could have been easily avoided had the MoD mandated that both the Army and IAF HQs formulate a joint services staff requirement (JSQR) for HAL to develop two tandem-seat attack helicopter variants: the LAH for the AAC and LCH for the IAF.

The LCH programme took off on October 3, 2006 when the MoD sanctioned a sum of Rs.376.67 crores for HAL to design and develop the LCH over a 24-month period. Powered by twin Ardiden 1H (1,200shp TM333-2C2 Shakti) engines, the LCH was then envisaged as a 2.5-tonne machine with a service service of 6km (19,685 feet), and which would take off from altitudes of 3km (9,800 feet), loiter and operate at altitudes of up to 5km (16,400 feet), and engage targets like unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that are cruising at altitudes of up to 6.5km (21,300 feet). The ASQR originally prepared by the IAF for the LCH states that the helicopter’s HOGE ought to be 3,500 metres, or 11,482.939 feet when it has an all-up weight of 5 tonnes. The LCH’s first prototype made its maiden flight on March 29, 2010 and two more prototypes have since been fabricated for flight certification purposes. Like the ‘Dhruv’, the LCH too adheres to the following FAR/MILSPEC standards.

Further to add to this there was also a tussle between IAF and IA as for who will use these platforms, as the former believes giving it to army would reduce or will interfere in what is there domain. The tussle still exists.

The above story gives a insight about the delay in LCH and also tells how did the RUDRA came into picture.

Nevertheless, Things have changed, 28 Apaches , 180 LCH, whose produciton line was started in September 2017(Desi combat chopper to begin production; Jaitley to inaugurate unit on Saturday – Indian Defence Research Wing).

Within next five years roughly ,the attack chopper count shall be well above 100 which will include new LCH, Apaches, Rudra and a few Mil Mi-24.

Pic credit: Google


WHY APACHE? 

ISN’T LCH CAPABLE ENOUGH?

 

First of all always remember that weapon systems are made on basis of requirements and not on the fact that “Sharma ji ke bete ke pas kuch achi chiz hai to apne bacche ke pas bhi vaisa ditto hona chaiye”(If sharma’s son has some stuff my son too should have same stuff if not better).

 

Weapons are the product of requirement, hence let get into the story of both LCH and AH-64.

AH-64: Basically the AH-64 itself is the succcessor of an Light combat category heli that is the AH-1 cobra. It was the mid cold war era, the russians were heavily generating cheap and fairly armoured tanks in huge numbers plus the Mi-24 was in service and was named as “flying tank” and the US needed a fullproof deterrent to this , especially the US army which have to face the armoured columns . The US air force at that time had the super tank busting monster “The A-10 thunder bolts” but the US army wanted a rotary wing aircraft at their disposal that can take out Russian armoured columns.The rotary wing aircraft would solve the problem of fixed wing aircraft that are not continiously available and take runs on the enemy to eliminate.

Hence ,the requirement was a flying machine that can hover, take substantial hits but can take out enemy tank columns brutally.

HAL LCH: The story of LCH dates back to the kargil war of 1999. We payed hefty cost though we won the war. We used the Mi-8 helicopter to target the enemy posts on pointed hill top, but it was ineffective because of following reasons:

..

  • The air at that height was definitely thin(less dense), the engine developed compressor problems and surged.
  • Added loads of weapons increased the load on engine further.
  • Increased load, poor engine performance was taking a load on the maneuverability of Mi-8 and Mi-17 hence it cant dodge the stinger sams hence we lost four brave soldiers(Flt Lt Subramaniam Muhilan,Sqn Ldr Rajiv Pundir,Flt Sgt P V N R Prasad,Sgt Raj Kishore Sahu, my highest regard and respect to these brave air warriors for their esteemed service to the nation.)
  • Later army added anti armour support to the GSQR in mid 2000s and the project was named LAH.

Hence requirement of LCH are as follows: Can reach the extreme heights of kargil and fight effectively w/o degradation in performance, anti armour support, fairly armoured with added stealth and upgraded avionics.

Hence results are clear:

  • LCH is the only heli that has ever operated successfully at heights of kargil.
  • It has EW suites developed by SAAB and HAL.
  • Its new armour has been developed successfully by DRDO this year in March.
  • Army has placed order for:114 and airforce = 65
  • Army is clear with the fact that the LCH will be the attack heli in the heights of kargil where no other attack chopper can reach and the 33 AH-64 combinely ordered by IA & IAF will hold the ground for hardcore anti armour purpose.

Hence when every human have an purpose similarly every fighting machine has a purpose that is why both LCH and AH-64 have found their way into the IAF and IA inventory.

The LCH is being procured for the Northern Himalayan Ranges. The Apaches will handle the Western Front.

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