India in talks with African countries for export of indigenous light combat helicopters
India is in talks with 'certain' countries in Africa for possible export of the indigenous Light Combat Helicopters
New Delhi: India is in talks with "certain" countries in Africa for possible export of the indigenous Light Combat Helicopters even as the Defence Ministry has set a target of USD 2 billion worth of exports over the next two years.
The weapons trial of the LCH is planned in July-August this year. While the Army has placed an order for 114 LCH with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the IAF has ordered 65.
The successful demonstration of the LCH in firing 70 mm rockets was conducted during the Iron Fist exercise of the IAF held recently.
The certification trials with integration of mission sensors such as electro optical system, helmet pointing system and weapon system like air to air missiles, turret gun and rockets are planned between July and August this year.
"We are in talks with certain countries in Africa who have evinced interest in the LCH. With great value for money, the helicopter is an attractive buy for many countries," a senior defence official said.
Asked why the countries would be interested in a chopper which is yet to get final certification, the official said, "The certification is a formal process. The countries interested in the LCH in the current form do not need high features like air to air missiles. For them turret gun along with some other features work."
LCH is a 5.5-tonne class combat helicopter designed and developed by HAL.
Its features include sleek and narrow fuselage, tri-cycle crash worthy landing gear, crash worthy and self-sealing fuel tanks, armour protection, nuclear and low visibility features which makes the LCH lethal, agile and survivable.
Designed for anti-tank and anti-infantry roles with a maximum speed of 275 kilometers per hour, the LCH is also capable of high-altitude warfare since its operational ceiling will be 16,000 to 18,000 feet.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had on 14 May said government is pushing for defence exports and plans to export Tejas fighter aircraft as well.
"I know it is not easy. Weapons and export of defence goods have double problems. One is whom you are exporting to and the second is one has to go on checking all international requirements," he had said.
Explaining that push for exports has started showing results, Parrikar said, "From a meager 140-150 million dollars, this year, I think we have crossed 330 odd million dollars. We have doubled the export. I have set a target for myself. In the next two years, why not touch USD 2 billion. It is not an impossible target.