rohitvats ji I agree with each and every point you made about Rudra, LCH, Mi-17. I noticed that you didn't mention Mi-35 heavy gunship in you argument which we already have.
First and foremost - please drop the 'Ji' thing. I know I look the part for this 'Ji' but a man can have his delusions, no?
I did not mention Mi-35 for a reason - when we required an attack helicopter, they were the only game in the town. Like Mi-23 MF acquired to counter initial induction of F-16. Though, they have served us well and are a potent force.
And I can see that you're formulating your POV in a much better manner. Good for you and us. This is going to be a long post, so please bear with me.
My point is, is it really necessary to go for heavy priced Apache gunship when you have other options available at your disposal. As far as my knowledge goes (correct me rohitvats ji if I am wrong) RFP are worked out based on war doctrine, requirements, other assessments. And it should be flexible enough to change according to new developments in the area. Earlier our war doctrine required heavy gunship as at that point of time we didn't have LCH, Rudra in our inventory. But now thanks to DRDO/HAL/IAF/IA efforts we have Rudra, LCH in our inventory. Our war doctrine which was based on Mi-17 & Mi-35 only for chopper attack roles earlier should change accordingly. Now we have in excess of 4 attack helicopters to choose from with a wide range of attack capability. Down the line it should move from these four to LCH, Rudra and their variants. This is what I call indigenization
You've raised multiple issues - allow me to address them to the best of my abilities.1. Doctrine -
Well, this is a very big word which is being bandied about quite casually. There is very little literature in the public domain about Doctrinal aspect of war-fighting of Indian Services. Of late, some literature has been put out by the Army on certain aspects. Whatever we know, is through papers and articles by various think tanks. But we digress.
Your doctrine is formulated to fulfill certain objectives. While formulating the Doctrine, you look at the capability of your adversary and your own resources – what you can afford and how much of it can you afford. It is not a linear thought process but something which enmeshes various factors. Take for example the Sundarji Doctrine formulated in 1987. It envisaged that in next Indo-Pak shooting match, India will strike across the deserts of Rajasthan and Southern Pakistan Punjab/Sindh, take Rahim Yar Khan (RYK), severe north-south link in Pakistan and severe the country into two.
To achieve this, he concentrated the firepower of Indian Army into 3 x Strike Corps centered on powerful armored divisions. He formulated Army Plan 2000 under which IA was to be fully mechanized with 4 x Armored Division, 7 x Mechanized Divisions and 4 x RAPID and 10 Mountain Divisions. Of course, nothing came of it because of the financial crisis of 90s and IA's involvement in insurgency.
Another important example is the proposed Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). IA has taken numerous steps in organization aspect to ensure that it is aligned to undertake and implement this doctrine. For example, it has moved certain formations more closely to border to cut down mobilization time. More firepower is being added to the Pivot Corps to lead the initial offensive.
So, you see the weapon systems and organizations are tailored around a doctrine and not the other way around. In our case, since a large component of major weapon systems is imported, we adapt these weapons to the best of their (and our) capability. So, doctrine about role and use of helicopters in today’s battlefield is not platform centric – rather, it is the other way around. Let me again quote the example of planned capability increment in terms of Heliborne Operations in the Indian Army – IA wants each Corps to be able to heli-lift at least one Infantry Battalion. Now, which platform would you acquire to do this? Mi-17 or ALH? Mi-17 seems the obvious choice, isn’t it? Tomorrow, there might be some different platform available to fill this role – there could be our very own Advanced Medium Lift helicopter. But the requirement of air-assault and its place in overall war-fighting scheme will remain.
The development of Tiger helicopter is another example – it is a very sophisticated piece of equipment which comes in various forms. At no point in time were the Germans or French planning to develop something on the lines of Apache. They wanted a helicopter which could fulfill multiple roles, have long legs and be easy on maintenance leading to overall lower cost of ownership. You see, by the time development of Tiger started, USSR was already history and Germans and French knew that they would not be fighting massive columns of Red Army’s Operational Maneuver Groups. Tiger is what would be required to fight a dispersed enemy who does not fight as per the rules of a regular war. Deployments across the globe for missions like in Mali would mean that the chopper had to be less maintenance intensive.
Australians chose Tiger over Apaches to fulfill requirement for Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). This ARH is not only going to be their prime anti-tank helicopter but also replace OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopters. This allows Australia to standardize their fleet further.2. Indian Threat Scenario –
The threat scenario that we face on our western borders has only increased in quantum and complexity. PA maintains a very large tank and mechanized infantry fleet. And these mechanized forces are accompanied by MANPADS. And then there are ATGMs, heavy caliber guns and small arms fire. Today’s battlefield is a highly complex and hostile environment for a chopper. And thanks to the US Dollars, the modernization of PA continues unabated.
Apart from the anti-tank role, you need a chopper to fulfill other roles like scout, direct support to the ground troops, armed reconnaissance etc.
One of the objectives of ‘limited war’ which is likely to be fought between India and Pakistan is attrition and degradation of war-fighting capability of PA. Something like ensuring that their armored formations cease to exist as coherent fighting machines.
What you need is a weapon system to address this complex threat scenario and achieve the required objectives. And tank-busting is going to be one of the major portions of the role which any attack helicopter is going to fulfill. 3. Role of Helicopters –
I’ve already commented on the level of helicopter fleet and its component being planned for by the army. By all indications, helicopters are going to be a very critical aspect of Indian war fighting machine. We’re talking about helicopters across the entire spectrum – from heavy to light combat helicopters, light and medium support helicopters and light utility helicopters.
You would be surprised to know (old fogies on this forum would know this) that Indian Army had earmarked 54 Infantry Division for Air-Assault way back in 1986-87. Of course, nothing came by way of resources and this division continued in its infantry role.
So, rest assured army knows and understands the importance and place of this third dimension of vertical envelopment. It is only now that it is getting the resources to put it in place. ALH/LCH/Rudra/Apaches are parts which are helping complete this big picture. Only thing missing is the Mi-17 class of helicopters which IAF controls and operates.4. Weapon System –
Of this entire requirement picture, heavy anti-tank role is one part. And here is the crux of the situation: AH-64D Longbow Apache offers a capability which is not offered by any other chopper out there to fulfill this role. Not even the Tiger. And not our own LCH.
That Longbow MMW Radar is a system in its own class. Without getting into too many technical details, the basic difference between a Tiger (and other attack helicopters) and Longbow equipped Apache is this – Tiger needs to ‘SEE’ a target using its optronics. Longbow Apaches on the other hand ‘ACQUIRE’ targets using their AN/APG-78 radars. They automatically classify top 16 threats and highlight the same for the crew to act upon. This brings it close to how modern fighters operate. And apart from this radar, it has all other capabilities in terms of optronics which Tiger has.
LCH was conceived to fulfill a specific requirement – requirement borne out of inability of Mi-35 to operate in Kargil. This is an example of a weapon system designed for meeting a certain doctrine. Other aspects of LCH as a weapon platform have been designed to ensure that this fundamental requirement is not breached. However, the need to remain true to this requirement will mean that there is going to be a limit to the growth potential of this platform – in its current form. But the same has not prevented IA and IAF for placing orders for LCH far in number to what are actually going to be employed in high-altitude areas. This is an example of Army/IAF adapting a weapon platform to fill a certain need.
I have no doubt that the next iteration of LCH will be on lines of Tiger – a more evolved and full bodied attack helicopter. But LCH will still continue to be an important subset of any attack helicopter development – till we come with engines to haul a Tiger class of chopper in the Himalayas.
Rudra falls in class between ALH and LCH/Apache. There are examples of such choppers in service of other nations – UH-1 Bushranger is one example. These will provide the armed support to the ALH and medium lift helicopters (when they enter service). 5. Force composition –
In an ideal scenario, if all the Corps of the IA were to be equipped with Grade A Attack Helicopter, my guess is that it would be on the lines of Tiger helicopter – with some of them equipped with Longbow type of radars. But we know resources are limited and need to be spread across judiciously. AH-64D is the cutting edge of the Attack helicopter requirement meant to undertake the most critical tasks. LCH will fulfill everything else.
People who criticize army for ‘wasting’ money on AH-64D need to remember one simple point – if the Services had be that foreign pasand, they would have never initiated the requirement for such a chopper in the first place. And in case they did, they could have limited the numbers required only for deployment in mountains. But I don’t see that happening. These choppers are going to be deployed from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Going ahead, IA will see induction of at least 3 x Apache Squadrons @ 1 per Strike Corps. Other Corps are going to be equipped with LCH as their prime Attack Helicopters. So, of the 14-15 Corps that IA will have in future, only three are likely to see Apache Squadrons. 6. Production –
People who are shouting LCH from roof-top are forgetting one simple fact – where is the LCH and when will it enter service? As per the latest reports, LCH will receive FOC by 2015-2016 timeframe. Assuming HAL would have established the production line for LCH in parallel to development process (after all, there are firm orders for 179 choppers) with initial production rate of 20 LCH/Annum, by 2020 we would see a total of 80-100 LCH in service. Apart from the technology aspect of Apache Mi-35 need replacement as of now.
This entire debate about 22 Apache and their role and LCH versus Apache aspect is based on flawed premise. That LCH is same as Apache. It is not. This is not a Arjun versus T-90 debate. The LIGHT in LCH is there for a reason.
By the way, you asked what prevents IA from having 2 x LCA Squadrons – well, there is actually a system which decides who owns and operated what resources.