Light Combat Helicopter to be Inducted into Aviation Brigade Later this Month

Indian Army

New Delhi: The Indian Army is set to operationalise the first squadron of indigenous Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) this month. It will be based at Missamari air base in Assam and will be part of the aviation brigade tasked to defend the strategically vital western part of Arunachal Pradesh. Missamari is located on the foothills of the Himalayas and is tasked to defend, among other places, the Tezpur-Bomdila-Tawang-Bum La axis. China had invaded the same route in 1962.

The LCH was inducted into the Indian Air Force in October. Simultaneously, five copters were handed over to the Army Aviation Brigade. The copters have reached Missamari and are being integrated with other assets of the brigade before a formal induction that will take place later this month.

Powered by two Turbomeca Shakti engines, the copter has a service ceiling of 6,500 meters (21,000 ft.), making it ideal to fly over the highest of Himalayan passes. The 5.8-tonne helicopter carries a turret gun, a rocket firing system and air-to-air missiles. The copter can be used against enemy tank formations, infantry and also unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The fuel tanks of the copter are self-sealing and the pilots will be protected behind a bulletproof glass shield. It has a built-in crashworthiness of landing gear, crew seats and fuel tanks. It carries an onboard electronic warfare. The display panel is compatible to allow pilots wearing night vision goggles to see the display.

The Army Aviation Brigade at Missamari was raised in March last year. It has a squadron of weapon system integrated (WSI) version of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) carrying the mistral air-to-air missiles. The copter can handle reconnaissance, troop transport, anti-tank warfare and close air support. A unit of ALH copters is also part of the brigade for logistics needs. A specialised UAV unit of the brigade is tasked to keep an eye on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The UAV maintains surveillance and provides real-time imagery to commanders on the ground in forward areas.

The Army Aviation and the Indian Air Force have joined hands for future operations. The IAF’s US-made Chinook and the Russia-made Mi17 helicopters are co-located with the Army Aviation as part of the effort to quickly deploy troops in the valleys of Arunachal Pradesh. Historically, Missamari air base was used by the allied forces to transport personnel, supplies and equipment between India and Kunming, China, during World War II.