India on Sunday unveiled the indigenously built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) with a successful flight demo of its first prototype in Bangalore for the armed forces.
Designed and developed by the state-run defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the 5-tonne class LCH puts India in the select club of a few advanced countries that have a similar chopper in the world.
The 20-minute inaugural flight at the high security HAL airport was witnessed by Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P K Barbora, Defence Production Secretary R K Singh, top officials of the three services and dignitaries from the defence establishment.
The black coloured sleek copter was initially escorted by two Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv in a clear sky on a bright sunny day under breezy conditions.
The twin-engine chopper was flown by chief test pilot retired Wing Commander Unni Pillai and test pilot retired group captain Hari Nair.
The dedicated attack helicopter, featuring a narrow fuselage and a tandem configuration for pilot and co-pilot/gunner, has been incorporated with stealth features such as reduced visual, aural radar and infra-red signatures and crashworthy landing gear for better survivability and state-of-the-art weapons.
As a derivative of HAL's flagship product Dhruv, the agile LCH boasts of excellent manoeuverability, nap of the earth (NoE) flying capability, air-to-air armament for air defence role, anti-armour capability and operation during day/night under all weather conditions.
"The LCH is designed to meet the operational needs of the IAF and is equipped with mission sensors. Among its multiple roles are attacking slow moving aerial targets, destruction of enemy air defence operations, escort to special heliborne operations and offensive employment in urban warfare counter surface force operations," HAL chairman and managing director Ashok Nayak said on the occasion.
Defence Minister A K Antony, Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, who were to be present at the launch ceremony, stayed away as a mark of respect to the 158 passengers who perished in the ill-fated Air-India Express aircraft at Mangalore Saturday.