Hindustan Aeronautics' Light Combat Helicopter programme will soon come out with its third prototype after incorporating a host of design and production improvements. This is less than a year after the much-anticipated chopper had to abort its flying display at the country's premier air show, Aero India 2011.
The first two prototypes of the helicopter gunship, which has been designed, developed and manufactured by state-owned defence undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, will be undergoing their sea-level trials by the end of the year, and an improved version is expected to take to the skies early next year.
"The third prototype will be made after some more flying of the first two, which are currently undergoing improvements and are expected to fly shortly. The prototype we flew during Aero India did show some deviation from the intended parameters, so that is why we had to take it out and do a re-study " P. Soundara Rajan, managing director of HAL's Helicopter Complex said.
The latest prototype will be lighter, have higher load limits and better camouflage. The Bangalore-based aeronautics company is currently working on the breakaway fuselage of the chopper, and expects to conduct the ground test for the same soon.
"The entire load spectrum is simulated on the ground, and the aircraft is then taken apart to see whether the intended design parameters are behaving exactly the way they should. We have completed the manufacturing of the breakaway fuselage, and it is getting instrumented now," Soundara Rajan said.
The 5.5-tonne LCH is expected to be the answer to the country's armed forces' desperate need for attack choppers, even as the government phases out its largely-obsolete helicopter fleets that have been acquired almost forty years back, and are now operationally unfit, especially in high-altitude battlefields.
The urgent need for modern-day rotor-wing gunships, which could be operated at high altitudes, was first felt during the Kargil conflict of 1999-00, which was fought in the Himalayan region, the world's highest mountain range.
HAL, the country's largest aeronautics company, has hit the ground running with the LCH, and expects to produce more than 100 of the choppers by 2015.