SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
Indian Air force recently decided that it will be procuring more ALH-Mark IV ” Rudra ” for its fleet after being impressed with the Armed version of the ALH-Dhruv helicopter in high altitude operations in a recent stand-off with the Chinese near LOC. IAF plans to procure 3 more squadrons which could mean additional orders for 40+ ALH-Mark IV ” Rudra “, but there has been growing concern that what was supposed to be a makeshift arrangement before a dedicated attack helicopter was developed is now fast becoming more popular than the actual product that was to take up this role.
ALH-Mark IV costs around 70 crores each with all the armaments its close to 90-95 crore mark and more than 70 have been developed and supplied to Indian air force with Indian Army being the biggest operator of the two. Both Indian Army and IAF have been giving lukewarm reception to the LCH after it cleared all mandatory developmental trials while it waits for further order from both.
Procurement of 15 Limited Scale produced LCH was recently cleared for 260 crores each, many could argue that cost was high since indigenous content was just 45% and could rise in the future to 55% and some pointed towards the additional supply of spares and tooling required due to which initially batches seemed to be on the higher procurement cost. HAL CMD had said that LCH will cost around 125 crores each when it enters full-scale production but critics will also point out that this is just a bare unit cost, when spares and other logistics are added it will cost more.
Over the last few decades, both Army and Air force have inducted close to 300 ALH-Dhruv Helicopters and Rudra just being an armed version of ALH-Dhruv makes it easy to integrate and operate that doesn’t require a different training regime for the new pilots or its ground crew. But LCH was designed based on lessons learned from the Kargil war where high altitude operations by then Mi-35 Attack helicopters and makeshift Armed variant of Mi-17 failed to get desired results.
LCH is more optimized for high-altitude regions and has better signature management with an improved radar cross-section that will help improve its survivability rate against infrared-based short-range surface-to-air missiles. LCH can carry more armaments and can be integrated with future weapons under development to further improve its arsenal. LCH is an optimum platform to be integrated and act as a mother ship to swarm drones in the future and exceeds in agility and maneuverability far better than Rudra.
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