Philippines Likely To Be 1st Customer Of India’s LCH Prachand; Talks On LCA Tejas Intensifies: HAL Chief Hints

After delivering Dornier-228 aircraft to Guyana, the Indian Aerospace maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is confident it will soon have the breakthrough deal in the fighter jet and helicopter segments. The talks with the Philippines are in advanced stages, and Nigeria is gaining momentum.

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HAL Chief Managing Director CB Ananthakrishnan, however, is more hopeful of getting a helicopter export before that for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. This is despite the present Indian government throwing its weight behind LCA ‘Tejas’ through an unprecedented sortie in the aircraft by an Indian Prime Minister.

In an interview, the HAL CMD said that the LCA ‘Tejas’ being the best in its category has evoked a lot of interest from foreign buyers.

“Five-six countries have shown interest. With Argentina, it is still under discussion. Talks with the Philippines are in advanced stages. With Egypt also we are in discussion. And talks with Nigeria have gained momentum,” Ananthakrishnan said, without elaborating if the specific countries were interested in the fighter jets or the helicopters.

Earlier, Argentina sealed the deal to purchase the second-hand F-16s from Denmark, sidelining India’s LCA Tejas. However, the South American country had signed a letter of intent to purchase 20 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) ‘Prachand’. The 20 helicopters are expected to be distributed among the Argentinian forces.

Earlier this year, the Philippines media was abuzz with HAL offering the local assembly of the LCA Mk1 Naval variant to the island country. There have been reports in the Philippines media that the HAL has offered a local assembly of Tejas Mk1 at Philippine Aerospace Development Corp (PADC). Along with the willingness to provide local assembly of the naval strike variant, India offers soft loans to the archipelagic country to modernize its armed forces.

Prachand LCH 2
Prachand LCH 2
Photo Courtesy: Vijainder K Thakur

The Philippines was the first foreign customer of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. It remains to be seen if it will be the first to buy the LCA MK1A as well.

The Mk1A variant flew already at the end of March, and HAL has received orders for 83 LCA MK1A from the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Defense Ministry has already issued a tender to HAL for the acquisition of 97 additional LCA.

The orders will be executed in the next 3-4 years. In anticipation of the order, the aerospace maker has already augmented its manufacturing capability from 8 aircraft to 16 aircraft per year. By 2025, HAL will be able to manufacture 24 aircraft as its new manufacturing facility in Nasik becomes fully operational.

In 2023, the Philippines Coast Guard inked its first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its Indian counterpart, paving the way for more information sharing in the maritime domain. The Philippines has displayed a keen interest in the military hardware India has to offer, including the Advanced Light Helicopter Mk II and indigenously built warships.

During the first-ever visit of a Filipino Coast Guard chief to India last year, he conducted a Customer Demonstration Flight onboard Advanced Light Helicopter MK III at Goa.

The ALH Mk III is a variant of the indigenous Dhruv Helicopter. The Mk III variant has been inducted into the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. It is a multi-role, multi-mission, and versatile helicopter in the 5.5-ton category.

“We will have a breakthrough sooner or later. Helicopters will have more demand,” the HAL CMD added. ALH has been one of the major success stories for HAL, which has supplied 300 plus of these rotary-wing aircraft to the Indian forces. Now, the helicopter has an Mk4 variant that is an armed version.

The HAL’s capacity is 30 helicopters per annum. The HAL will try to scale it up to 60 helicopters when the demand is at its peak, and the plans are in the offing to ramp up the production to 90 helicopters per year.

Indian Combat Helicopters in Africa?

Nigeria has shown interest in the Indian-built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand,’ Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) ‘Dhruv.’

An Advance Light Helicopter carries an ATV in an under slung configuration to enhance operational and logistic stamina in forward areas.

In 2023, Africa’s most populous country approved inking of defense deals worth US $1 billion, aimed at helping Nigeria become self-reliant in defense manufacturing.

A Nigerian delegation saw the aircraft’s demonstration. However, the Nigerians have yet to fly them. The negotiations for these military purchases are still in preliminary stages.

HAL, which manufactures these military aircraft, has trained six Nigerian Army Aviation pilots on Chetak Helicopters. Phase I of the training was completed in December 2021 and the second phase was completed by December 2022. Each Nigerian Army Aviation officer received 70 hours of flying training as part of the training.

India has been offering LCA, ALH, and LUH to Nigeria, saying the platform will augment the strength of the Nigerian forces. Defense Advisor to Nigerian High Commission in India Commodore Anthony Victor Kujoh noted in 2022: “Nigeria would not only like to further enhance the business relationship with HAL for training, but also towards asset acquisition.”

In 2020, the Nigerian Army and Air Force indicated an interest in acquiring combat helicopters. The Army is keen on attack helicopters to give air support to its field-deployed troops in the northeastern region.

The helicopters will be required to conduct ground attacks and fend off air attacks from small drones. They would also be conducting armed escort and tank plinking.

The Induction of Light Combat Helicopter ‘Prachand’ in the Indian forces has also boosted its export potential. The Helicopter has already been deployed to Siachen Base Camp and along the eastern border with China.

The LCH is the only helicopter operating at 5,000 meters with a considerable load of weapons and fuel. This means LCH can operate at the world’s highest battleground—the Siachen Glacier. After the Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 in the IAF’s fleet proved ineffective during the Kargil Conflict against Pakistan in 1999, the Indian defense establishment started building a lighter, stealthier, and more maneuverable attack helicopter.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • The author can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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