The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the acquisition of 156 Prachand Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), which will cost the country’s exchequer about $5.4 billion. This procurement holds paramount importance in India’s quest for self-reliance in defence manufacturing and is expected to boost the country’s efforts to reduce dependence on imports of foreign attack helicopters such as the AH-64 Apache, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s report “Global Military Rotorcraft Market Forecast 2024-2034” reveals that India’s investment in procuring attack helicopters is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5% over the next 10 years. India’s diverse terrain, including mountainous regions, necessitates the procurement of versatile rotorcraft platforms for close air support, ISR operations, and rapid troop deployment, thus ensuring operational readiness and tactical flexibility against any potential threats, irrespective of all geographical constraints.

Venkatesh Kandlikar, Aerospace & Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “With over 50% of its equipment to be locally produced, the LCH procurement program will ensure a consistent supply of critical parts, mitigating risks associated with supply chain disruptions and enhancing the availability rate of these helicopter units, which is crucial for maintaining a formidable defense posture for the Indian Armed Forces. Over time, the increased production of Prachand LCH is anticipated to gradually phase out existing inventories of attack helicopters like the Mi-35.”

The impending introduction of the Prachand LCH also marks a significant leap forward in augmenting the combat capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces, largely due to the helicopter’s exceptional operational proficiency at altitudes exceeding 5,000 meters. This capability is crucial in ensuring efficient logistical support for troops stationed in challenging terrain like the Siachen Glacier, located at 5,400 meters.

Furthermore, the LCH can be equipped with a diverse range of arsenal encompassing air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, 70 mm rockets, and 20 mm turret guns, making these helicopters capable of delivering critical fire support to infantry units in high-altitude contested regions such as the Depsang Plains, Galwan Heights, Daulat Beg Oldi, and Pangong Tso, where Indian forces are actively engaged in defensive manoeuvres against adversaries.

Kandlikar adds: “The Indian government, along with prioritizing the protection of its borders and national interests, recognizes the export potential of the Prachand LCH platform, aligning with its ambitious defence export goals. Leveraging its robust military-industrial complex and growing expertise in aerospace and defence manufacturing, India aims to strengthen its position as a reliable supplier of aerial platforms in the global aerospace and defence market.”

The Prachand LCH will be a suitable platform in the coming years for nations like Egypt, Nigeria, Argentina, and the Philippines, all of whom have indicated interest in purchasing similar platforms to support their ground forces and carry out counter-insurgency operations. India’s HAL might continue to look for growing opportunities in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia for advanced combat helicopters.

Kandlikar concludes: “The RFP for the Prachand LCH serves as a vital support for bolstering HAL’s production lines and its network of local suppliers. The meeting of HAL’s delivery commitments for ALH Dhruv Mark IV ordered earlier is indicative of the company’s capabilities in timely delivery of the upcoming LCH units.

“The fulfillment of such projects further drives HAL’s long-term goals, aiming for the production of about 1,000 helicopter units of varying tonnage over the next two decades. Amidst escalating tensions with China and Pakistan, India’s possession of a substantial helicopter inventory underscores its readiness to defend its borders with homegrown capabilities while providing continued support to domestic defense suppliers.”

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