In a further push to atmanirbharta, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to public sector undertaking (PSU) Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for procurement of 156 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) ‘Prachand’ to augment battle capabilities of the armed forces, especially to operate at high altitudes.

Of that, 90 LCH ‘Prachand’ are for the Army Aviation Corps, and 66 are for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The move comes after the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoNs), in a meeting on November 30, 2023, for procurement of the multi-role and two-crew cockpit LCH for the Army and the IAF under Buy (Indian-IDDM) category.

The HAL, the Navratna defence PSU, informed the National Stocks Exchange of India Ltd on June 17 that a “Request for Proposal (RFP) has been issued by the Ministry of Defence for procurement of 156 Light Combat Helicopter (90 nos. for IA and 66 nos. for IAF)“.

The IAF and the IA already have around 15 LCH Prachand, completely indigenously designed, developed and manufactured by the HAL, in their respective combat fleets. The HAL has done extensive test flying of the LCH, which the PSU believes is the only copter available across the globe that can operate at an altitude of 160,400 ft.

Since the first prototype took to the skies in a maiden sortie in March 2010, it has successfully demonstrated its capability to land and take off from high altitudes, including the Siachen glacier.

The RFP issued by the MoD, which is a step before the process matures into the award of the contract, is expected to send a message to foreign countries showing interest in the LCH that Indian forces have trust in their own aerial platforms. Argentina is one of the South American countries that has signed a letter of intent to purchase 20 LCH Prachand, while the Philippines, too, is said to be in an advanced stage of negotiation with the HAL for acquiring the rotary wing platform.

The HAL has its plate full, as it’s finally going to deliver the first of the 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) MK1A ‘Tejas’ to the IAF next month. It had missed the earlier deadline of March. In February 2021, the IAF placed orders for 83 LCA MK1A in a deal worth Rs 48,000 crore.

The HAL also issued an RFP in April for the procurement of 97 more LCA MK1A. With the formation of a new government, the tendering process is likely to accelerate as the IAF looks to replace ageing Mig 21 fighter jets with Tejas.