New Delhi, Oct 3 (EFE).- India on Monday inducted a fleet of new light combat helicopters especially designed to operate in mountainous terrain into its air force, marking the first time that locally made choppers were put to service in a country which imports most of its arms and defense equipment.
“The light combat helicopter is a result of research & development for two decades. And its induction into IAF is an important milestone in defense production,” Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said in an event in northeast India, before climbing into one of the aircrafts for a brief flight.
The helicopters were developed by Indian state-owned company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), under the “make-in-India” policy being promoted by the government, and are especially designed for high-altitude combat in regions such as Ladakh, which borders China.
“The Light Combat Helicopter is the only attack helicopter in the world that can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 meters,” HAL managing director CB Ananthakrishnan claimed while talking to reporters.
With a weight of 5.8 tons, the aircrafts are armed with 20 mm turret cannons, 70 mm rocket systems and air-to-air missiles.
So far only 15 aircrafts have been produced, although the company plans to produce up to 160 units, out of which 65 would be inducted into the IAF, while the rest would be used by the Indian army.
India is the world’s largest importer of arms, ahead of Saudi Arabia, according to data complied by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Apart from United States-produced Apache helicopters, the IAF mainly uses French and Russian-made choppers, and is aiming to gradually replace them with other locally produced aircraft to reduce the country’s heavy dependence on other countries in terms of defense equipment.
Last month, India pressed into service its first domestically produced aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, which became the largest and most developed ship of its kind in the Indian navy, with a total length of 262 meters. EFE