What are the role of Indian LCH and Apache Helicopter ?
In mid-2020 India found itself in an armed confrontation with Chinese troops in Ladakh. This is a high-altitude region of northwest India and the contested area is on Pangong Lake, which is 4,250 meters (14,000 feet) above sea level. Part of the Indian reinforcements was some helicopter gunships. Instead of sending some of their recently acquired American AH-64E helicopter gunships, the Indian made LCH (Light Combat Helicopter) was sent. India said this was because the LCH could operate more effectively at high altitude than the AH-64E. The service ceiling (highest altitude it will operate at) for the LCH is 6,500 meters (21,300 feet) while for the AH-64E it is 6,100 meters (20,000 feet).
Developed by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), IAF has ordered 30 more LCH. LCH is 5.8 ton attack helicopter, build locally and powered by (made in India) two helicopter engines namely Shakti, these engines are also used to power HAL Dhruv. HAL LCH also feature most modern technologies like smart glass cockpit, anti-resonance vibration isolation system, Armour protection, crash worthy landing system, bearing less tail rotor, 20 mm turrent gun, 70 mm rocket, air to air missile, air to land missile, anti tank, helmet pointing system, and two seater attack helicopter.
“The other features of LCH include its ability to operate in the complete ‘Area of Responsibility’ (AOR) and altitudes. It has the capability to carry adequate weapon load at high altitudes under varied conditions. All these characteristics make it most suitable for hot and high altitude operations.”
The LCH made its first flight in 2010 and in 2011 was declared ready for service. Orders were not placed by the army air force until 2016 because of misgivings about the capabilities of the LCH. The air force plans to eventually have 65 LCH while the army will order 97.
Meanwhile, India also possesses another attack helicopter: the U.S. AH-64E Apache which is considered the most advanced and deadly attack helicopter in the world. As part of a 2015 deal worth $3 billion, India recently received 22 Apaches along with 17 CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the US.
Apache has Hellfire anti-tank missiles and Longbow fire control radar. The Indian AH-64E Guardian version features a more powerful engine, better data networking, and improved composite rotor blades. Compared to the LCH, the Apache is faster, has more engine power, and carries far more weapons, though the LCH has a longer range.
However, the IAF has chosen LCH over Apache due to its ability to perform at high altitudes, which can be a challenge for rotary-wing aircraft. The Ladakh region in the Himalayas, where India and China are engaged in a military standoff, has an altitude between 10,000 – 18,000 feet.
LCH has proven its might in 2015 when several test landings were conducted on the Siachen glacier in Ladakh, at altitudes up to 15,800 feet while carrying a modest 500-kilogram load. While the AH-64E can fly up to 20,000 feet, experts have argued that the LCH is more suitable for the Himalayas.
“While the Apaches would do well in the plains, they would have limitations operating in the upper reaches of the Himalayas,” wrote Fali H Major (Retd.), Former Indian Air Chief Marshal “During the Kargil War of 1999, there was a need felt for armed attack helicopters capable of operating at high altitude.
That’s where the LCH fits in. It has successfully been tested in altitudes over 13,000 feet and was the first attack helicopter to land at the forward landing base in Siachen.”
However, there is a tradeoff between the capabilities of the two attack helicopters viz-a-viz the armament. While AH-64 can fly with 30 millimeter cannon and up to 16 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70-millimeter unguided rockets, LCH is lightly armed with 20-millimeter cannon and up to four missiles or rockets.
Even with such a disadvantage, LCH makes for a better choice in the mountainous regions as it is more important to have an armed helicopter that can fly above the mountains instead of destructive ones which may not stand the challenging terrain and weather conditions.
Source:- Eurasian Times