“In the present geopolitical situation, India is located somewhat sensitively. We have had multiple threats in the past and therefore, defence preparedness is something India can never compromise on.” —Arun Jaitley, Minister of Defence
Saturday August 26 this year was indeed a Red Letter Day for the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as it was on this day that the Indian aerospace major showcased two of its latest products, the Hawk-India (also referred to as the Hawk-I) and the indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). The Minister of Defence, Arun Jaitley, the chief guest at the function, dedicated the Hawk-I to the nation and formally launched the series production of the LCH. The ceremony that was held at HAL’s factory premises in Bengaluru, was witnessed by a very large audience consisting of thousands of personnel from the four Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), HAL, BEML, BEL and BDL as also other dignitaries, invitees and the media.
HAL has been engaged for the last around ten years in the licensed-production of the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) from BAE Systems of the United Kingdom. So far it has produced a total of 100 of this platform for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy and there are orders for more. In 2015, HAL revealed plans for a programme to convert the Hawk AJT into a ”Combat-Ready Platform” which entailed upgrade of the aircraft with indigenously designed avionics, software and system architecture to enhance its operational capability. Dubbed as the Hawk-I, this platform is now capable of delivering precision guided munitions (PGMs) both in strike and aerial combat roles. Its self defence capability has been enhanced through new Electronic Warfare (EW) systems and digital map generator. The platform’s operational reliability has been strengthened through new Dual Hot Stand-by Mission Computer Avionics Architecture supported by indigenous and highly accurate high altitude Radio Altimeter, IFF Mk XII, Data Transfer System, Counter-Measures Dispenser System (CMDS) and Radar Warning Receiver (RWR). As the platform has been developed without a pre-arranged customer, it is now for the HAL to find one. Hopefully, the IAF will come on board.
Light Combat Helicopter
The twin-engine LCH in the 5.8 tonne category, has been designed and developed by the Rotary Wing R&D Centre and built by the Helicopter Division, both of HAL. The project was sanctioned in 2006 and the helicopter undertook its maiden flight in 2010. The LCH is an attack helicopter and is essentially a derivative of the Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv. However, the LCH has a narrow fuselage and a tandem seating configuration for the pilot and the co-pilot or in his place, the Weapon Systems Operator (WSO). The platform has indigenous state-of-the-art technologies such as integrated dynamic system, hingeless main rotor, a tail rotor without bearings, anti-resonance vibration isolation system, crash worthy landing gear, smart glass cockpit, armour protection and is designed with stealth features with low RCS to provide protection against detection by radar and infrared devices.
REFERRING TO THE CHANGES MADE IN THE DEFENCE PROCUREMENT PROCEDURE, THE MINISTER SAID THAT SOME PLATFORMS HAD BEEN THROWN OPEN TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO SET UP MANUFACTURING FACILITIES
The helicopter is equipped with electronic warfare systems and advanced weapons systems, including a twin-barrel M621 20mm cannon on a Nexter THL-20 turret, can carry 70mm rockets, MBDA air-to-air, air-to-surface and anti-radiation missiles and Helina anti-tank guided missiles. Explosive ordnance that it can deliver includes iron bombs, cluster bombs and grenade launchers. The LCH has a glass cockpit equipped with multifunction displays, target acquisition and designation systems and a digital video recorder to capture footage of the battlefield for use in debriefing. A helmet-mounted target system controls the turret guns mounted on the helicopter’s fuselage.
The LCH is also equipped with state-of-the-art sensor suite. It includes a chargecoupled device camera, a forward-looking infra-red camera and a laser designator. The two cameras capture the location and position of enemies, ensuring clear visibility during bad weather conditions. The laser range-finder and designator aim laser-guided bombs and missiles towards the target. The helicopter is also fitted with radar and laser warning receivers, a missile approach warning system, countermeasure dispensing systems and a missile jammer.
With an all-weather operations capability, the LCH can carry out missions from sea level to high altitudes, in the hot deserts to the icy heights in the Himalayas. It has successfully demonstrated the capability to land and takeoff from Siachen. The basic version of the LCH has been cleared by CEMILAC and the Defence Acquisition Council under the Ministry of Defence has approved the procurement of 15 platforms for the Indian Army. The formal endorsement by the Minister of Defence, Arun Jaitley at the ceremony at HAL on August 26, 2017, marked the commencement of series production of the LCH.
Comments by Chairman, HAL
In his address to the gathering, T Suvarna Raju, Chairman and Managing Director, HAL said that the LCH and Hawk-I would provide the nation with additional combat resource and the two programmes presented on the occasion are truly Make in India. These programmes are capable of generating employment opportunities in the country including for the MSMEs and the service sector through enhanced public-private industry participation. There will be a significant spin-off by way of the development of an eco-system for manufacture for the defence sector. It will also meet with the aims and objectives of Skill India initiative in the aerospace and defence sector in the country.
Address by the Minister of Defence
In his address that was delivered extempore, the Minister of Defence Arun Jaitley said ”In the present geopolitical situation, India is located somewhat sensitively. We have had multiple threats in the past also and therefore, preparedness is something India could never compromise on.” Commenting on his visit to the DPSUs during this trip, he said that it was not only satisfying but was a ”personal education” for him. He said that India has always been heavily dependent on foreign sources for both weapons and technology.
He went on to state, ”It is absolutely necessary that with the experience of DPSUs and the entrepreneurship of private sector coupled with the size of our market, we enhance our manufacturing ability so that India even in this field, graduates from being net buyer into manufacturer and hopefully at a later stage, a supplier of military hardware to other countries in the world.” Referring to the changes made in the Defence Procurement Procedure, the Minister said that some platforms had been thrown open to private sector to set up manufacturing facilities in India.