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India to buy 65 HAL light combat helicopters

The Indian air force plans to buy 65 Hindustan Aeronautics light combat helicopters, with deliveries to start in 2013-14. The service has confirmed the size of its planned purchase, but says the cost of the deal will be specified later.

The helicopter is India's first indigenous attack rotorcraft. It made its maiden flight in March 2010 and staged a brief aerial display at February's Aero India air show near Bangaluru, but photographs and Indian media reports suggest the display was cut short owing to mechanical problems.

With a maximum take-off weight of 5.8t, the LCH is a development of HAL's Dhruv advanced light helicopter. France's Turbomeca helped develop the helicopter's twin Shakti engines.

Hindustan Aeronautics Light Combat Helicopter, Billypix
 © Billypix

Key features include stealth, a glass cockpit, armour protection, crashworthiness and the ability to operate at night. Mission systems include a helmet-mounted sight, electronic warfare system, directional infrared countermeasure/laser transmitter, a datalink and an infrared suppressor.

The helicopter's armament includes a 20mm cannon in a chin turret, as well as rockets and missiles. According to HAL, the helicopter will be able to carry missiles for a variety of missions, including air-to-air, air-to-surface, and anti-radiation.

In January 2010, HAL chairman Ashok Nayak said that India could eventually purchase up to 100 LCHs.

India also has a requirement for 22 combat helicopters produced overseas. In January a notice posted by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency detailed Boeing's bid to sell 22 AH-64D Apache Longbows. According to the agency, India has requested bids from "several foreign suppliers", although only Russia's Mil Mi-28 is publicly acknowledged as a rival.

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