India’s Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) prototype made its first flight on March 29, performing a series of low speed, low altitude checks during its 20 sortie from the company’s Bangalore helicopter complex.
The 5.5 tonne LCH is a tandem two-seat attack helicopter, derived from HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter, powered by twin HAL/Turbomeca Shakti 1200shp (900kW) turboshaft engines. It features stealth characteristics, crashworthy wheeled landing gear, a glass cockpit with multifunction displays, and a target acquisition and designation system with FLIR, laser rangefinder and designator. Mounted on the nose is a M621 gun mounted in a Nexter THL 20 turret which is operated by a helmet mounted sight.
The LCH prototype, the first of three, was due to fly in October 2008 but was delayed due to developmental issues with the program. HAL will carry out an extensive flight test program ultimately leading to an initial operation clearance by December 2011.
HAL currently has 65 firm orders for the Indian Air Force and 114 for the Indian Army, with the first helicopter anticipated to enter service in 2012-13.