Equipping the helicopters to engage in aerial warfighting.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL], currently developing the Light Combat Helicopter [LCH], as well as the Advance Light Helicopter [ALH], plus its armed variant, the ALH-WSI plans to arm them with Air to Air Missiles [AAM]. Its Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre [RWR&DC] recently floated a Request For Information [RFI] seeking response from Global vendors for a suitable AAM solution.
The LCH & ALH-WSI are intended to be armed with AAM capable of hitting aerial targets at a distance of 5 km, utilising passive, fire-and-forget, heat-seeking, Infrared [IR] guidance system. Ideal for engaging other rotor-mounted adversaries, or UAV/UCAV. The chosen solid-fuel missile would need to demonstrate the ability to be targeted, by either the pilot or the Weapon System Operator [WSO], using the helicopter's Helmet-mounted Pointing System [HPS], as well as slewable Electro-Optical Sighting System [EOSS]. Each LCH & ALH-WSI is being developed to eventually hold 4 such missiles - 2 each under either of its 2 weapon stub-wing pylons. Depending on the mission requirements, the pylons can, in tandem, be mounted with land-attack Anti-Tank Guided Missiles [ATGM], unguided Rockets/bombs, or Anti-Radiation Missiles [ARM].
Interestingly, this means that, earlier reports, that HAL would be integrating the MBDA Mistral-2 with both the helicopters, may no longer hold true. This, despite both the helicopters being photographed, on various occasions, with the Mistral-2 on its pylons. The ALH has, in fact, test-fired the Mistral-2 ATAM during weapon trials. The missile's overall specifications, on paper, match that stated in the RFI's specification document. Incidentally, MBDA had announced giving a local Indian company the Work Order to develop a suitable missile launcher for mounting on the helicopters.
Three possible reasons pop up in the mind. First, the missile has not performed as desired during this year's trials. Suspect, given that the RFI was initially floated in April 2016, even before the LCH weapon trials were scheduled to begin, later, in July 2016. Second, the RFI states that the chosen missile system would need to be manufactured & maintained locally through the Transfer of Technology [ToT] route. A logical view given that, the Indian Army, Air Force & Navy would have a combined requirement of more than 300 heptrs of both types. Economy of scale, & all that. Possible disagreement may have risen on the nature & extent of ToT that the OEM is willing to part with. Thirdly, a negotiating tactics designed to strengthen India's hands. India, presently, has no on-going, indigenous, programme for developing such a short-range Air-to-Air Missile. Thus, it has to acquire one from the international market. Would be interesting to see which 1 it finally zeroes in on & why the change in preference away from the MBDA solution.
WSI - Weapon Systems Integration