The need of Attack choppers and the journey to fulfilling of those needs has been quite long,which lately has been seen coming to an quite satisfactory position. But it is quite interesting to know where and how it all started.
The Indian Air force has been the primary owner of the attack rotary wing aircrafts since the 80s. The first of these choppers were the famous “Flying Tank” Mil Mi-24 attack choppers. But the need for a effective attack chopper was felt somewhere else too, the Indian Army. Over the years, especially the Longewala battle of 1971 Indo-Pak war, the army felt that it has to have a capable and robust avaiation wing. They would be resposible for two tasks:
- Counter Insurgency Operations (COIN)
- Anti-Armor Support
Though there has always been a cold war between IA and IAF over the ownership of the heavier beast but the IA was always and in emergency of atleast a COIN capable helicopter for it’s newly established in November 1986. Hence to cadre to this need HAL was tasked. They tried and modified the existing Cheetah helipcopters into an armed variant called the “HAL Lancer”. The developement took place in 1990s and the Lancer saw action in 1999 Kargil War. It was quite successful there, but it had an diadvantage there, the millitants were not able to distinguish between CASEVAC Cheetahs and Lancers, hence both were fired upon, earlier CASEVAC Cheetahs were left out by them.
The Features of Lancer were:
- The helicopter has bullet proof front panels and crew seat.
- 2*12.7 mm gun
- 3*70 mm rockets.
- Chaffs and Flares
The IA ordered 12 more improvised HAL Lancers in 2001 over existing, though the exact numbers of Lancers with IA still unknown. Lancers are still serving the IA.
The experience of arming Lancer indigenously and feedback from Army helped HAL to design IA and IAF “Rudra” Attack helicopter which is now in active service with them. Rudra was further refined to make full blown attack heli HAL Light Combat Helicopter for High Altitude Warfare requirement of the Forces. Moreover this is going to be joined by IAF’s 22 Apache Attack Chopper.