Saturday, 17 April 2010

LCH - A new begining for India in Combat Helicoptor Field



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India has successfully flight tested a prototype of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), designed and developed by the state-run Hindustan in Feb 2010.

"The maiden test flight of the LCH was successfully. Though it was a short haul lasting about 20 minutes, the performance was good,". The 5.5-tonne attack copter is a derivative version of HAL's flagship product Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), christened Dhruv.

Made of lightweight composites, the LCH can operate at high altitudes up to 6,000 metres or 18,000 feet.

The prototype was flown with Shakti engine, developed by HAL in partnership with Turbomeca, the French manufacturer of aero engines for global aerospace majors.

"Plans to launch the flight trials of LCH have been going on over the last couple of months but got delayed due to reassessment of its various functions and flight control systems," . HAL plans to hard-sell about 150-175 units of the LCH to the Indian defence services, mainly Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army, which already operates the military version of Dhruv for various functions.

The LCH will be equipped with a helmet-mounted targeting system, electronic warfare systems and advanced weapons systems.

The LCH will incorporate a number of stealth features and crash-worthy landing gear for better survivability. It will have a narrow fuselage, with two crew stations."

"The LCH is nearly half the width of the Dhruv's fuselage, it's got angles that the Dhruv doesn't, its canopy is totally different, its wing stubs are totally new (not at all similar to the WSI Dhruv either) and it has a completely different landing gear configuration, seats are totally different due to higher crashworthiness requirements and the exhaust looks and is shaped differently compared to the WSI Dhruv..

Their visual similarities are only in the tail and the tail rotor design which has been kept unchanged..that is simply done because you don't have to change the tail on the LCH, its good enough for a gunship.

Besides, even if there were minor changes to the fuselage from a layperson's point of view (of which there are much more than minor in this case), it entails a huge amount of engineering effort in the background which will piss off anyone in the aviation business when someone comes up with flippant remarks on "seems like only couple of changes from WSI Dhruv" as if they're playing with putty or doing carpenter giri.

Do you have any idea how much effort it takes to get a new variant out with nothing more than a simple fuselage plug ? Externally the only difference may be the length but the amount of work that goes into that redesign is not to be underestimated.

They'd have had a dedicated team of designers, analysts, manufacturing engineers, etc after the preliminary work of designing the fuselage is done (which itself must have taken time considering that they actually did radar cross/section analysis with RCS models prepared by some private firm in B'lore- this is a first in India since the MCA is still to have its design frozen from what I know).

Plenty of study and analysis is required since the requirements from a dedicated attack helicopter like the LCH are somewhat different from those of a troop carrier with firepower like the WSI Dhruv. For instance, I doubt that the WSI Dhruv can take 12.7 mm hits and withstand it..maybe some localised strengthening may have been done for critical areas. They would have needed separate teams working on the armour for the LCH since it has to be lightweight and high strength. When the technology for that is ready, you start designing and analysing panels that can be built using those materials. Structure (panels, metallic frames, etc.) changes as the fuselage changes from that of the Dhruv, stress analysis is required to see that it works for the designed life of the helo (a very involved process), drawings change, integration has to be checked, more redundancy may be introduced to critical hydraulic and other systems to cater for battle damage that may otherwise cripple the gunship, manufacturing tooling changes from those for the Dhruv, certification is required.





As for finish, please point out what it is that you find on the LCH that requires better finish and for what purpose and I'll respond accordingly. Is it the access panels that you're talking about ? And please enumerate the disadvantages of the finish that the LCH has. We can discuss from there on.

The Light Combat Helicopter is powered by engines made by Turbomeca of France, and fitted with anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles and electronic warfare equipment, will perform anti-tank and counter insurgency roles, as well as scout duites, escort to heliborne operations and support for combat SAR operations. Armament includes a chin mounted twin barrel 20 mm cannon, rockets, air to surface and air to air missiles.

The LCH will have a glass cockpit with multifunction displays, a target acquisition and designation system with FLIR, Laser rangefinder and laser designator. Weapons will be aimed with a helmet mounted sight and there will be an electronic warfare suite with radar warning receiver, laser warning receiver and a missile approach warning system.

Aero India 2003 revealed a full scale mock up of India's new Light Combat Helicopter from HAL. At that time it was expected to be operational within four years. The IAF offered Rs. 300 crores to fund in part the LCH project, and according to HAL Chairman N.R. Mohanty, the helicopter will make its maiden flight in 2005. The LCH proposal was at an advanced stage, and would need 25 months to fly from date of project launch and another two years for weaponisation.

In 2006 it was announced that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) planned to build a Light Combat Helicopter. The Government has accorded sanction in Oct 2006 for the design and development of Light Combat Helicopter to meet the need of combat helicopter of Indian Air Force (IAF). HAL has undertaken the design and development program of the Project. The Initial Operational Clearance for service deployment by IAF is planned by November 2010. The Ministry of Defence had sanctioned $24 million in October 2006 for HAL to make 2 LCH prototypes by 2008. HAL announced plans at Aero India 2007 to make a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) derivative of the Advanced Light helicopter (ALH) to enter service by 2012.

The Light Combat Helicopter proposal sponsored by the IAF may face rough weather in its weapon fit, if the Army is not taken on board, now that it has issued its new Doctrine and attack helicopters form a major feature. Rumors of Israeli participation in the project have proven to be unsubstantiated.

Though the LCH is derived from the ‘Dhruv’ and will carry the same weapons package now being qualified on board the armed ‘Dhruv’ (that have been ordered by the Army for its projected Combat Aviation Brigade), the IAF has specified a top speed 25kph higher. The two pilots in the LCH sit one behind the other, compared to side-by-side in the Dhruv. So all the flight controls, the hydraulics and the fuel system had to be redesigned for the sleeker, heavily armoured LCH. The LCH’s many stealth features also necessitated redesigning the fuselage.

As of 2008 HAL was due to roll out the first of three LCH prototypes early in 2009, with initial operational clearance being granted by March 2010, and full certification of airworthiness being granted by January 2011, 25 months after the LCH’s first flight. The LCH design was finalised and frozen in March 2008, at which time the first technology demonstrator (TD-1) was to fly by March 2009, testing the LCH’s flying systems; by July 2009, the second technology demonstrator (TD-2) will fly, fitted with all the weapons and electronic sensors. By the end of 2009, the Indian Air Force (IAF), the primary users of the LCH, will be conducting flight tests on the TD-3.

General characteristics

* Crew: 2
* Length: 15.8 m (51ft 8in)
* Rotor diameter: 13.3 m (43 ft 6 in)
* Height: 4.7 m (15 ft 4 in)
* Disc area: 138.9 m² (1472 ft²)
* Empty weight: 2550 kg (5621 lb)
* Loaded weight: 4000 kg (8818 lb)
* Useful load: 2950 kg (6503 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: 5,500 kg (12125 lb)
* Powerplant: 2× HAL/Turbomeca Shakti turboshafts, 900 kW (1200 hp) each

Performance

* Never exceed speed: 330 km/h (178 knots, 207 mph)
* Maximum speed: 275 km/h (148 knots, 171 mph)
* Cruise speed: 260 km/h (140 knots, 161 mph)
* Range: 700km (297 nm, 342 mi)
* Service ceiling: 6400 m (21,300 ft)
* Rate of climb: 12 m/s (2362 ft/min)
* Disc loading: kg/m² (lb/ft²)
* Power/mass: W/kg (hp/lb)


Armament

* Guns: M621 20 mm cannon on Nexter THL-20 turret
* Rockets: Unguided rockets
* Missiles: MBDA air-to-air missiles
Air-to-surface missiles
Anti-radiation missiles
Helina ATGM(8)
* Bombs: Iron bombs
cluster bomb units
grenade launcher



Avionics
Saab EW



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