"After the first prototype's maiden flight in March 2009, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) says LCH should be ready for the initial operational clearance (IOC) by December 2010," a senior defence ministry official told TOI.
With the final operational clearance (FOC) a year or so after that, the newly revised timeframes hold that the 5.5-tonne LCH should be ready for induction into IAF by 2012-2013. The project development cost of LCH is currently pegged at only Rs 376.67 crore since it's basically a derivative of the Dhruv ALH (advanced light helicopter) already being inducted into the armed forces.
The twin-engine LCH will be armed with a 20mm turret twin-barrel gun, cluster bombs, rocket pods as well as air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. Designed for anti-tank and anti-infantry roles with a maximum speed of 275 kmph, it will also be capable of high-altitude warfare since its operational ceiling will be 16,000 to 18,000 feet.
"The LCH will incorporate a number of stealth features and crash-worthy landing gear for better survivability. The LCH will have a narrow fuselage, with two crew stations," said an official. IAF has projected an initial requirement of 65 LCHs, also fitted with helmet-mounted targeting systems, electronic warfare equipment and electro-optics, to bolster its attack helicopter fleet.