CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — A major acquisition effort for the Light Combat Helicopter has moved forward after India’s Defence Ministry issued a request for proposals.

The RFP was issued to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., which designs and manufactures the 5.8-ton LCH Prachand. The request asked for 156 helicopters, split into 90 for the Indian Army and 66 for the Indian Air Force.

HAL confirmed the RFP’s release in a stock exchange filing on June 17. The deal is expected to be worth more than 450 billion rupees (U.S. $5 billion) once negotiations conclude and a contract is issued.

In response to the news, HAL shares surged 6.5% to hit a record 5,582.80 rupees.

The company did not respond to Defense News’ request for additional information by press time.

KP Sanjeev Kumar, a former Indian naval aviation test pilot, told Defense News this tender “is a significant milestone in India’s journey of making customized helicopters for its armed forces.”

The attack helicopter can take off and land at altitudes of 16,400 feet, making it ideal for operations along India’s mountainous borders with China and Pakistan.

Armaments on the LCH include Mistral air-to-air missiles; up to four 70mm FZ231 rocket pods; a nose-mounted 20mm M621 cannon; and eventually Dhruvastra air-to-ground missiles.

Although the LCH is considered an indigenous design, it was about 45% domestically manufactured during the limited-series production of 15 of the helicopters, delivered around the 2022-2023 time frame. However, HAL’s goal is to reach 55% with the 156 helicopters under the potential deal.

An important reason for the increase in indigenous content is a 2023 agreement with Safran for full technology transfer of the Shakti 1H1 engines that power it.

The LCH’s development has been protracted, its maiden flight occurring back in 2010. Sanjeev Kumar noted “product improvement is a continuous process,” and that HAL may address legacy issues related to other helicopters it makes, such as low time between the overhaul of key subassemblies.

“So long as attack helicopters remain relevant in the battlespace, the LCH will be a vital weapon in India’s arsenal,” Sanjeev Kumar added.

The Prachands are to operate alongside 28 AH-64E Apache helicopters procured from the U.S. firm Boeing.

This tender comes on the heels of an RFP for 97 Light Combat Aircraft Mk1A aircraft issued to HAL in April. As of March 31, the company’s order books stood in excess of 940 billion rupees, even before these LCA and LCH orders were logged.

Editor’s note: Vivek Raghuvanshi, a journalist and freelancer for Defense News for more than three decades, was jailed in May 2023 by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of espionage. The Indian government has released minimal information on his arrest. Sightline Media Group, which owns Defense News, has not seen any evidence to substantiate these charges and repudiates attacks on press freedom.

Gordon Arthur is an Asia correspondent for Defense News. After a 20-year stint working in Hong Kong, he now resides in New Zealand. He has attended military exercises and defense exhibitions in about 20 countries around the Asia-Pacific region.

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