HAL, Light Combat Helicopter, LCH, DefExpo 2018
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)'s Light Combat Helicopter is expected to huge attention at DefExpo 2018Soumepa via Creative Commons

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) said on Thursday weapon trials on the indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) have been completed and the aircraft is ready for operational induction.

The LCH successfully carried out air-to-air missile firing on a moving aerial target during test runs at the integrated test range in Chandipur on Odisha coast, the state-run defence manufacturer said in a statement.

"During the tests, a direct hit on the aerial target was achieved, destroying it completely... With this, LCH has completed all weapon integration tests and is ready for operational induction," the statement said, according to IANS.

The development comes at a juncture when the country's sole military plane maker is going through a severe cash crunch that forced it to avail of a Rs 1,000 crore loan to pay salaries to its 30,000 strong staff.

HAL also said that the Defence Acquisition Council has given the go-ahead for the procurement of first batch of 15 LCHs -- 10 for IAF and five for Indian Army.

This should come as a relief for the struggling public sector undertaking whose order book has been depleted over the years.

The Bengaluru-headquartered behemoth has been reeling under a double whammy of depleting order book and chronic delays in the deployment of budgetary allocations. As of March 31, 2018, the company's cash and cash equivalents had stood at Rs 6,524.20 crore, compared with Rs 17,671 crore at the end of the financial year 2014-15.

To make matters worse, HAL lost the Rafale fighter offset contract as well. It was reported last year that HAL was facing the prospect of stopping key design and development projects.

Though the central government allocated Rs.10,000 crore for HAL for the financial year 2018-19, the finance ministry disbursed only 40 percent till the end of October.

High altitude capabilities

HAL had earlier said that LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world that can operate at altitudes as high as Siachen Glacier.

The helicopter can detect and destroy any target on ground or in the air as it's equipped with helmet mounted sight and a forward looking infrared sighting system. "Using these sights, pilots can launch a missile onto any target without having to turn the helicopter," the statement added.

The statement also says the LCH is capable of operating from dispersed locations and flying at ultra-low levels, providing protective umbrella from all aerial threats.