The 116 Helicopter Unit, which is equipped with the Advanced Light Helicopter (Mark IV) Rudra has been lauded for its superior offensive operations at a high-altitude airfield in the Ladakh area after the Galwan Valley clashes between Indian and Chinese troops by the Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary on Friday who awarded ‘unit citation’ to three squadrons of the Indian Air Force for their role in boosting India’s military presence in eastern Ladakh last year following the military standoff with China in the region.

On the other side, the Army aviation brigade under the PLA had deployed Z-10 attack helicopters across Line of Actual Control (LAC) but it seems the latter’s WZ-9 turboshaft engine, which reportedly prevented the Z-10 from carrying its maximum weapons payload during military operations but also failed to perform even with minimum loads from the high-altitude airfield as expected by PLA and availability of the fleet to remained below 35% largely due to other engine troubles.

Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (PAAC) had rejected Chinese Z-10 attack helicopters over Turkish T129 Gunships due to poor performance at the high-altitude airfield across the Line of Control (LOC). PAAC was given 3 Z-10 to carry out Internal trials that lasted for over six months that also included trained aircrew but it too failed to maintain desired serviceability levels.

The Z-10, co-designed by the Kamov Design Bureau of Russia and the Chinese 602nd Aircraft Design Institute, is designed primarily for anti-tank warfare and many call it not appropriate for high-altitude operations. China, in cooperation with a European partner, has reportedly been working on a more powerful engine, the WZ-16 that will have offer better performance at high-altitude operations but the new engine has not entered serial production yet.

India’s first purpose-built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) gunship powered by the same Indo-French Ardiden 1H1 Shakti engine has shown better performance at high-altitude operations than ALH-Rudra since it is better optimized for high-altitude. LCH has entered service in limited numbers and soon more units will be ordered by the Army that will be its biggest operator.

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