New Delhi looks poised for a major expansion of its attack helicopter capabilities, issuing a large request for proposal (RFP) for the Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Light Combat Helicopter (LCH).

In a brief stock exchange filing on 17 June, HAL stated that India’s defence ministry has issued an RFP for 156 LCHs, of which 90 are for the army and 66 for the air force.

HAL LCH Indian Defence Ministry

Source: Indian Ministry of Defence

New Delhi’s RFP covers LCHs for both the air force and army

HAL provides no further details on the delivery timeframes or the value of the deal. However, Indian media outlets suggest a contract could be worth roughly Rs450 billion ($5.4 billion).

The deal, when concluded, will be a major boost for HAL. Fifteen LCHs are understood to be in operation: 10 serve with the Indian air force and five with the army.

The Indian air force took its first example in November 2021. The 5.8t type was formally inducted in October 2022, gaining the name ‘Prachanda’ – ‘Fierce’ in Sanskrit.

The LCH’s missions include combat search and rescue, destruction of enemy air defences, counter insurgency, as well as “high-altitude bunker busting”. In addition, the Prachanda is envisioned as having a role against both unmanned air vehicles and slow-moving aircraft.

HAL has said that the LCH had its genesis in the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan, which highlighted the necessity of an attack helicopter that can operate at high altitudes. Design and development of the new helicopter was sanctioned in 2006, and the Indian army signed on in December 2013.

The LCH is designed with a twin-tandem layout, a bearingless tail rotor, glass cockpit, 20mm gun in a chin turret, 70mm rockets, MBDA Mistral anti-tank missiles, and an electro-optical/infrared targeting pod. Survivability features include ballistic protection and other measures intended to minimise its visual, aural, radar and infrared signatures.

Cirium fleets data indicates that India’s armed helicopter fleet also includes 22 Boeing AH-64E Apaches, 56 Rudra Mk. IVs, and 15 Mil Mi-24 variants.