India's Light Combat Helicopter, which is being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics, will make its first flight in October 2008. HAL chairman Ashok Baweja says that there is a commitment for 65 LCHs from India's army, which will use the helicopter for anti-armour and anti-infantry roles.

"We are halfway through the design stage and we are confident," says Baweja. The company is also working to produce the helicopter using mostly composite materials, and Baweja says that this gives the aircraft benefits that do not exist in other aircraft.

"There are good American, Russian and European helicopters in the market, but these are made of metal. The LCH will be made of composites and so can withstand humidity and harsh climates much better than machines made from metals," says Baweja.

The LCH would be powered by the Shakti engine, which is already used in HAL's indigenous Dhruv advanced light helicopter. The Shakti was jointly developed by HAL and Turbomeca. It would have helmet-mounted targeting systems, electronic warfare systems and advanced weapons systems, says the company.

Separately, HAL is bidding to sell two Dhruvs to Bolivia and six to Chile. The company is also looking to sell the helicopter in Turkey. Baweja says that the company is establishing a partnership with Chile's Enaer to provide maintenance and support services to the aircraft in South America.

Baweja says HAL has completed upgrades to the Jaguars and MiG-27s operated by the Indian air force, and the navy'sBAE Systems Sea Harriers. A contract to upgrade the air force's MiG-29 fighters is also expected next month, and this will be undertaken by HAL as well.

Source: Flight International