The Indian Prachand Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) is unique among modern combat helicopters in one important way. From the outset, it was developed with air defense (AD) capabilities against slow-moving air targets, including enemy helicopters and drones. Unlike other combat helicopters that have been retrofitted with AD functionality.
Besides AD, the Prachand LCH is very useful in traditional combat helicopter roles: SEAD (Enemy Air Defense Suppression), escorting special heliborne operations, supporting combat search and rescue operations, anti-tank and anti-infantry operations. is capable of
Features – LCH “Prachand” Helicopter
The Prachand is a 5.8-ton Low Observation (LO) design with reduced visual, auditory, radar, and infrared (IR) signatures. It has slanted panels to lower the radar cross section and an IR suppressor for a lower IR signature.
The helicopter has a top speed of 275 kmph (148 kt). The helicopter has a combat radius of 500 km and is capable of high-altitude combat with an operational upper limit of 16,000 to 18,000 feet (5,490 meters).
Prachand’s shortwing/weapon boom has four weapon mounting stations, two on each side. Each station can carry ATGMs, rockets, or air-to-air missiles.
It has fixed side armor plates and crash-resistant landing gear for added survivability.
LCH Prachand contains about 45% intrinsic content by value, gradually increasing to over 55% in series production versions.
Operational Strength – LCH Prachand
Prachand is equipped with an electro-optical pod consisting of a CCD camera, FLIR, laser range finder (LRF), and laser designator (LD), allowing the attack helicopter to detect and acquire targets at both day and night. I can.
Prachand’s air-to-air abilities have proven to be eerily prescient. The developer of combat helicopters seems to have foreseen the emergence and lethality of combat drones on the battlefield in the way and scope to evade the IAF (Indian Air Force) and his IA (Indian Army) leaders!
On 17 January 2019, Prachand successfully engaged a moving aerial target with an air-to-air missile at the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, Orissa.
The air-to-air engagement was the first of its kind in the country by helicopter. So far, no other domestic military helicopter has demonstrated such capabilities.
In particular, air-to-air missile capabilities are based on EO and helmet targeting systems.
HAL did not say which air-to-air missile it tested, but earlier reports referred to the MBDA Mistral 2. But since the missiles are optically aimed and the weapon system’s computer source code is ours, anything optically in the air can be integrated into an anti-aircraft missile with an optical seeker. I can. It’s only a matter of time before DRDO tests its own air-to-air missile.
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The helicopter’s anti-tank capabilities are based on the Helina ATGM and can engage targets with ranges from 500 meters to 7 kilometers.
Helina features a 640x512px FPA (focal array) IIR (Imaging IR) seeker. Simply put, the Helina seeker can not only detect targets, it can image them, which means giving missiles the ability to recognize targets and ignore other heat sources in the vicinity of the target!
Helina always uses LOBL (Lock on Before Launch) tracking, making it a “launch and forget” missile. Once the ALH’s electro-optical (EO) system identifies the target, it automatically hands over the target to the missile.
For anti-infantry operations, the Prachand is armed with a jaw-mounted twin 20 mm turret, cluster bombs, and 68 mm rocket pods.
Prachand’s M621 20mm cannon is known for its accuracy and high muzzle velocity. Both pilot’s helmet-mounted sighting systems are rotatable, allowing them to see and fire at targets around the aircraft.
68mm rockets can be fired at targets up to 6km away, even if they are out of sight.
The LCH Prachand is equipped with a self-protection suite consisting of a radar/laser missile proximity warning system and a countermeasure (flare/chaff) dispensing system. This suite was to be obtained from a foreign vendor.
Operational shortcomings/desired growth trajectory
limited combat range
In its current form, Prachand is a platform that can operate day and night on uncontested or uncontested battlefields. In many ways, Prachand is better suited for counterinsurgency operations than regular peer-to-peer combat.
However, this is a platform that can ultimately be made formidable by adding the ability to operate in low-visibility areas and engage enemy targets at standoff ranges far outside the MANPADS envelope. .
The presence of VSHORADS (Very Short Range AD Systems), including MANPADS, on the battlefield dramatically reduces the effectiveness of combat helicopters. High attrition from VSHORAD can reduce cost effectiveness and reduce morale.
Lessons from Russian Special Military Operations
During the early stages of the Special Military Operations (SMO) in Ukraine, Russia very effectively used the tactics it had developed in Syria for rapid advance. Russia used combat helicopters as escorts for rapidly advancing columns of combat vehicles and convoys of logistics trucks.
However, shortly after the start of special operations, NATO flooded Ukrainian forces with capable MANPADS (Stinger (US) and Starstreak (UK)) to stop Russia from using combat helicopters as escorts.
The proliferation of MANPADS across the line of contact made combat helicopter operations impossible and forced Russia to withdraw its advancing columns.
Russian combat helicopters – the Mi-28 and Ka-52 – have since used unguided long-range rockets aimed using ballistic computers and guided missiles such as the Russian LMUR (Product 305). , began engaging the target from out of MANPADS range.
Unguided long-range rockets launched using ballistic computers (accounting for inertial platform measurement drift due to wind) have limited accuracy, but missiles like the Product 305 have lethal accuracy.
The 15-kilometer-range missile flies toward its target using an inertial autopilot and periodically uses SATNAV to correct its position. Upon approaching the target, a missile with an IIR seeker transmits live video to the launch platform’s cockpit.
The pilot observes and selects targets while the missile is in flight. Targets can literally be changed any number of times until they are affected. The pilot also has the option to call off the engagement and order the missile to veer off course and detonate itself.
Israeli Spike NLOS-launched 50 km-range helicopters are similar standoff weapons that require live targeting information. The use of such standoff weapons requires real-time targeting information that is most effectively provided using drones.
Targeting and networking features
The use of standoff weapons is only possible if the target coordinates can be obtained in real time. For this reason, the launch platform must have reliable networking capabilities that allow the weapon system computer to receive real-time target coordinates from ground observers or UAVs.
In the future, DRDO will have to develop a standoff missile with a range of 7 kilometers or more for Helina. Also, the IAF and the Indian Army will need to deploy large numbers of drones for surveillance and targeting.
Drones and combat helicopters need to be networked. It should be understood that these are not futuristic requirements. These are requirements that had to be addressed a few years ago. If balloons rise today, our combat helicopter crews will have many advanced MANPADS to deal with!
In its current development, Prachand is optimized for fair weather operations. The lack of radar limits the ability to operate when visibility is poor due to rain, fog, haze, or smoke. Importantly, its air-to-air capabilities are also limited to good visibility conditions.
Radars such as the Ka-52’s crossbow radar provide the crew with situational awareness in all weather conditions, facilitating target detection and engagement using air-to-surface missiles guided over data links. increase. Radar also helps with target recognition and prioritization.
For example, on-board radar can identify railroad bridges 25 km away in all weather conditions, enabling attacks from standoff range.
The Indian Army has identified the need for an on-board Fire Control Radar (FCR) to overcome the operational limitations of electro-optical sensors. The Army is open to obtaining his FCR from Native or foreign vendors.
In conclusion, the launch of Prachand LCH is a milestone event that will spark innovative operational thinking within the leadership of the IA and IAF.
This is proof that DRDO can provide the same operational system as overseas. Military leaders should push the Department of Defense and his DRDO for follow-up development of long-range strike missiles, sensors (including radar), and Prachand’s network capabilities.
The IA or IAF can obtain standoff weapons from foreign OEMs. But a good combat platform that relies on foreign weapons to become a powerful weapon system makes little sense when self-reliance is the goal.
- Vijainder K Thakur is a former IAF Jaguar pilot. He is also a writer, software architect, entrepreneur, and military analyst.
- Please contact the author at vkthakur (at) gmail.com
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