Monday, November 3, 2008

Weaponised Dhruv ALH, LCH & LOH

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has been associated with the tedious and long-drawn process of designing, developing and series-producing the ‘Dhruv’ advanced light helicopter (seven of which have been ordered by Ecuador’s Army), believes that the ‘Dhruv’ 5-tonne multi-role light medium twin-engined design does not represent a zero-sum game, that it is possible to wrap a slim, tandem-seat fuselage around the existing powerplant, transmission and rotor systems of this proven helicopter and derive two distinct derivatives: a light combat helicopter (LCH) optimised for high-altitude warfare; and an armed aeroscout capable of operating in the plains (for operating in tandem with fast-moving mechanised and armoured formations) and over jungle terrain in support of special operations forces and also taking part in combat search-and-rescue operations. Yet, as of now, only the IAF has committed to placing limited firm orders for the LCH, while Army HQ has refused to even examine the LCH’s obvious potential as an armed light observation helicopter (LOH), preferring instead to separately procure single-engined LOHs of an altogether new design of foreign origin. As things now stand, both the IAF and the Army have projected a requirement for 187 LOHs of which the majority will go to the Army. All these will be delivered during the 11th (2007-2012) and 12th (2012-2017) Defence Plans.

The LCH programme took off in early 2003 when the IAF ‘verbally’ pledged Rs3 billion to HAL for designing and developing the helicopter over a 24-month period. The 5.5-tonne, twin-engined LCH at that time was conceptualised as being optimised for all-weather observation and counter-insurgency operations at high altitudes. It will also be armed and equipped with weapons and nose-mounted mission sensors to intercept unmanned aerial vehicles, escort heliborne special operations forces, provide offensive firepower for ground operations urban terrain/built-up areas and for combat search-and-rescue operations, and undertake anti-armour operations. The airframe was to feature a narrow fuselage housing a pilot and a gunner/co-pilot in tandem configuration. The glass cockpit and windshield was required to have armour protection against 12.7mm armour-piercing rounds. Optronic sensors, including a FLIR/thermal imager and laser rangefinder/designator, were to be installed inside a nose-mounted gimballed payload assembly developed by the DRDO’s Dehra Dun-based IRDE facility. The electronic warfare suite was to include a DRDO-developed radar warning receiver, plus chaff/flare dispensers and a missile approach warning system. Things began to move in October 2006 when the MoD released initial R & D funds to HAL and authorised the IAF’s projected procurement request for 65 LCHs. As per present plans, HAL is due to roll out the first of three LCH prototypes early next year, with initial operational clearance being granted by March 2010, and full certification of airworthiness being granted by January 2011, 25 months after the LCH’s first flight.

Though the LCH is derived from the ‘Dhruv’ and will carry the same weapons package now being qualified on board the armed ‘Dhruv’ (that have been ordered by the Army for its projected Combat Aviation Brigade), the IAF has specified a top speed 25kph higher to allow it to run down and kill snooping UAVs if necessary. To make the LCH a survivable platform, HAL is following NATO’s MIL-STD-1290 crashworthiness standard, is designing its own impact absorbing landing gear and will improve on the Dhruv’s ballistic tolerance with up to 100kg of composite-/ceramics-based modular armour, whose positioning is based on an IAF study of the areas most likely to suffer bullet damage. The tandem-seat cockpits will each have twin side-by-side AMLCDs, will be NVG-compatible, will provide NBC protection to the crew, and will have a helmet-mounted targeting system co-developed by HAL and Israel’s Elbit Systems. The LCH will be capable of operating at heights of up to 6,000 metres or 18,000 feet, and will be powered by twin Ardiden 1H (1,200shp TM333-2C2 Shakti) engines co-developed by HAL and Turbomecca. The main and tail rotor blades will be of all-composite construction, with the main rotor blade tips featuring BERP-style sections for increased cruise speed.

The LCH’s armaments suite will comprise a THL-20 chin-mounted turret containing a 20mm Nexter Systems-built M-621 gun firing at a rate of 800 rounds per minute, stub-wing-mounted Forges de Zeebrugge-built LAU-FZ-231 launchers carrying 2.75-inch rockets, MBDA-built Mistral ATAM air-to-air missiles, or the DRDO-developed Nag anti-armour guided-missiles, which will have a maximum engagement range of 6km and will use a nose-mounted millimeter-wave radar for target acquisition-sum-homing. The LCH’s four-axis auto-hover and digital automatic flight control system have been developed in-house, while the Bangalore-based DARE is developing along with EADS the defensive aids suite. DARE has also developed in-house the digital mission computer and pylon interface boxes. The flight control actuator system has been co-developed by HAL and the UK-based APPH.

For the LOH requirements of the Army and IAF, HAL recently proposed a lighter LCH-derived platform powered by a single TM333-2C2 Shakti engine. The LOH will feature a roof-mounted stabilised optronic turret housing an integrated long-range observation system comprising a thermal imager, laser rangefinder and daylight TV.—Prasun K. Sengupta


Afterburner said...

The LCH pic that you have seems to be very old. Lot has been changed since then. Please refer Ajai shukla's blog

- Afterburner

Prasun K Sengupta said...

All photos of the LCH as well as their scale-models are ALL representative models. The definitive airframe's illustrations have not yet been released.

Anonymous said...

better buy some used su25 from russia then doing this which could even b used in himalayas for close combat support,su25 is much faster than any helicopter

is battle proven,same capability army lacked in kargil that su25 could provide close air support in himalayas

and is suitable for providing close air support in desert,mountains,cities

Anonymous said...

old photos of dhruv also. see shiv's blog for new photos of the dhruv wsi.

Mr.White said...

@anon at 4:25pm
I dont know why you are keep on commenting that Su-25 is better than this Helo. You did the same thing in Shiv's blog also. I dont know why are comparing an gunship/multirole helo with a fighter aircraft. Helos have a different usage and fighter crafts have a different usage in any battlefield. Su-25 is a 1975 vintage and they are proved not a worthy fighter in Indian scenario. If you are strongly supporting su-25 then go on and ask the MOD to stop acquiring Tejas and go for your so called Su-25. This place is for LCH and Dhuruv helos.

Anonymous said...

mr. white, yes that guy is a bitch.

left wing nut job said...

Any word on the LCH or WSI Dhruv having exhaust IR suppressors?

Anonymous said...

to Mr WHITE or colourless

what happened in kargil a mig21 was shot down by stinger missile,so it's much easier to shot down a combat helicopter

i just want to say that v r spending money on making and buying combat helicopter,v all know that helicopters r easier to destroy,

and first educate urself that su25 is not a fighter, its a close air support aircraft with titanium armour around it to bear gun strikes and even then make it to home

v need helicopter for destroying tanks and provide close air support
same thing su25 can provide

helicopters r not fast,not agile,can't reach altitude while s
u25 can go upto 10km altitude can reach upto mach 1,can carry upto 4400 kg of differnet weapons and its agile too

LCA is fighter not a close air support aircraft while su25 is designed specifically for close air support and has titanium armour to bear gun strikes and even then make it to home,LCA simply can't do that

and su25 is good for indian scenerios as well to provide close air support in desert,mountains in cities

void walker said...

prasun, the third pic is the design which was conceptualised in the fall of ' has since then undergone both minor & major changes to its fuselage,gearbox, landing gear( addition of tail swing arm)..

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Left Wing Nut Job: Rest assured what has been shown (weaponised Dhruv) and LCH are all still representative designs. On the Dhruv ALH for instance, the nose-mounted optronic sensor is only for IFR navigation and acquiring targets for the 20mm gun. Once the HELINA or LAHAT is integrated, then you will see the Dhruv equipped with another roof-mounted stabilised turret containing an optronic package with laser rangefinder/target designator. The existing MBDA-built Mistral ATAMs will have to go as well as the LCH (acting as an escort for the Dhruv) will be carrying such weapons. That is why, it is extremely important that the Indian Army (and not just the IAF) acquire the LCH in sizeable numbers so that the weaponised Dhruv and LCH can always operation in tandem with one another. The LCH will then also be able to act as an all-weather armed aeroscout/LOH (like the Japanese OH-1) and there will be no need then for a single-engined LOH that the Army is insisting upon for mysterious reasons. Therefore, expect the LCH in future to carry an additional roof-mounted or belly-mounted optronic turret.

To Void Walker: Hey there, great hearing from you! You are absolutely right. A lot has changed since December 2005 (when the photo was taken from a HAL poster) and I hope the design keeps evolving to include a retractable undercarriage, compact laser obstacle avoidance system, and additional stabilised turret-mounted optronic sensors for fire-control of ATGMs. I also presume the LCH's aircrew will also use the very same TopOWL helmet-mounted sights as those ordered by the Indian Navy for the MiG-29Ks.

By the way, yesterday I saw for the first time China's ZW-10A attack helicopter and its 8km-range laser-guided AKD-10 ATGMs. Mighty impressive work, with substantial industrial R & D inputs/design consultancy coming from Denel Aerospace of South Africa.

left wing nut job said...

Thanks for the update about the additional optronic fit being considered. But still, I haven't seen any inkling about an IR supressor coming out. All of the close support helos (attack and ute) have this feature and it's interesting to note that neither the Dhruv nor LCH has been mentioned to have one.

Also, I noticed that there was a RFI issued for laser based active jamming pods (dazzlers). Was this for the LCH?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Anon@10:42AM: The term 'close air support' is very much hated by the IAF and it prefers to label it as 'airpower's participation in the AirLand battlespace'. Having stated that, the longer reach of ground-based field artillery and availability of heavy attack helicopters (like the Ka-52 and Mi-28NE) has changed the very nature of close air support that is required nowadays. Today, what is required is not the Su-25 type of aircraft, but precision-guided munitions like the Brimstone that can be carried by even the Jaguar IS or MiG-27M to carry out what are called 'effects-based air operations'.
The attack helicopters on the other hand are not just used for frontal or flank attack against hostile armoured/mechanised formations, but for acting as airborne artillery/anti-armour weapons platforms in support of the vertical envelopment/air assault operations carried out by heliborne infantry forces. That's how the Indian Army's Combat Aviation Brigade will employ its weaponised Dhruvs and Mi-17V-5s (and hopefully the LCHs). Having said that, it is high time the IAF relinquished control over the heavy attack helicopters and passes all such assets to the Army. IAF domination of close air support operations is a discredited practice that it must do away with ASAP.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To left wing nut job: Yes, both the Dhruv ALH and LCH will have all kinds of active/passive protection systems, including IR suppressors. As far as EW systems for the LCH goes, the integrated suite will comprise the RWR, laser warning receiver, missile approach warning system, IR jammer, multi-band EW jammer and flare countermeasures dispensers. This suite is being co-developed by DARE, EADS and BDL. It will be derived from the similar 'Mayawi' integrated EW suite that is destined to go on-board the Tejas LCA.

void walker said...

LCH 's engines are not going to get exhaust IR suppressors like those fitted on Mi-25s.....however we're working on a relatively new thing called noise suppressor( similar to those on Rolls Royce turbojets
) and hope to integrate it in the near future.
The use of exhaust IR suppressors may be effective for operations over the plains but it'll lead to loss of thrust which is very crucial to LCH (supposed to operate at high altitudes).

Anonymous said...

to prasun,

the longer reach of ground-based field artillery and availability of heavy attack helicopters (like the Ka-52 and Mi-28NE) has changed the very nature of close air support that is required nowadays. Today, what is required is not the Su-25 type of aircraft, but precision-guided munitions like the Brimstone that can be carried by even the Jaguar IS or MiG-27M to carry out what are called 'effects-based air operations'.
The attack helicopters on the other hand are not just used for frontal or flank attack against hostile armoured/mechanised formations, but for acting as airborne artillery/anti-armour
if IAF don't need close air support aircraft then IA will like it very much,same thing IAF could not provide in kargil,now hal is developing LCH

jaguar anf mig27 r not close air support aircraft cuz they can't bear direct artillary hits while
su25 is specifically designed for this purpose and has tufer titanium armour around it while jaguar and mig27 don't have it

su25 can also carry 4.4tons of PGM,anti armour,AA-11 missiles,even STAND OFF WEAPONS including KOPYO radar in seperate pod

no helicopter matches speed,agility,range,altitude,weapon load of su25

i am saying this because helicopters r not agile,no speed,no high altitude,limited range

this was proven in kargil cuz v didn't have close air suport for troops and mi17 gun ship proved to bulky for that and vulnerable to gun shots

and even LCH will only provide 1.5 tons of payload at altitude but again it will not b agile,limited rage,very limited speed while a
su25 provides excellent speed,payload,altitude,range and even mig27 and jaguar can't do this

Anonymous said...


left wing nut job said...

Void walker,
Thanks for the info on the IR suppressor and why it won't be included on the LCH. With a capable and comprehensive missile defense suite, it just might get away with not needing the suppressors.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


i have heard that ka226 is also in competition for 197 helicopters for india

can u post some thing about it how it compares with other similar helicopters

max said...


In what stage exactly is the LOH's development? Has development started or is it still in proposal stage?

Secondly I asked this before and got some answers from others but I'm not too convinced: Why does the LCH have its optical turret on top of the nose? This configuration obstructs the pilot's view of targets directly below the chopper especially during ascending flight. All other attack helos have the optical turret either tucked into the nose or underneath.

Please enlighten.

Anonymous said...

sir-ji, how does China's ZW-10A match up with our LCH?

anticipating a reply.

Anonymous said...

all, why dont lch have a dome above its rotors like apachee longpow?

Anonymous said...

longbow sorry typo