An Alpha Defense Analysis
Push for LCH sale
Reports suggest that India is pushing for the sale of its indigenous attack helicopter, the HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), to Nigeria. However, Nigeria has already signed a contract with Turkey for six TAI T-129 ATAK attack helicopters, which are expected to be delivered in the near future. This raises the question of why India would attempt such a sale.
Attack helicopters have long formed the backbone of many African air arms, frequently providing the main frontline element of smaller sub-Saharan air forces. These are often older aircraft types, including Gazelles in various countries and Bell AH-1 Cobras in Kenya. Meanwhile, Nigeria plans to first augment and eventually replace its air force’s quartet of light attack-configured Leonardo AgustaWestland AW109E Power helicopters and the survivors of seven Mil Mi-24V/P ‘Hind-E/F’ and 17 Mi-35M/P ‘Hind-E/F’ gunships.
The HAL LCH is an attack helicopter that was designed and developed in India. It is powered by two Shakti turboshaft engines and features a glass cockpit, helmet-mounted targeting system, and advanced weapon systems. The LCH has a maximum speed of 275 km/h and a range of 700 km. It can carry various types of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, rockets, and guns.
The TAI T-129 ATAK, on the other hand, is a Turkish attack helicopter that was developed jointly with Italy’s Leonardo. It is powered by two LHTEC CTS800 turboshaft engines and features a modern cockpit, advanced avionics, and weapon systems. The T-129 has a maximum speed of 281 km/h and a range of 561 km. It can carry a variety of guided and unguided missiles, rockets, and guns.
In terms of armament, the LCH can carry up to 8-12 missiles or 70 mm rockets, while the T-129 can carry up to 12 missiles, more lighter munitions or rockets. The LCH has a 20 mm turret gun, while the T-129 has a 20 mm cannon. Both helicopters have advanced targeting systems and can operate in various environments, including high-altitude and hot weather conditions.
In terms of geopolitical relations, India and Nigeria have had friendly ties for many years, with India being a major trading partner and provider of aid and technical assistance. The sale of the LCH could strengthen these ties and provide India with a foothold in Nigeria’s defence market. However, it is unclear if Nigeria is interested in the LCH, given its recent deal with Turkey for the T-129. Nigeria Army Personnel have already completed training on HAL Dhruv & Chetak in association with HAL.
Turkey and Nigeria, on the other hand, have been expanding their defence ties in recent years. In addition to the T-129 deal, Turkey has also sold Nigeria unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and small arms. This relationship could potentially give Turkey a strategic foothold in West Africa, which could be useful in countering its rivals in the region.
In conclusion, the potential sale of the LCH to Nigeria raises interesting questions about India’s defence diplomacy in Africa. While the LCH is a capable attack helicopter, it faces stiff competition from other aircraft, including the T-129. Moreover, the geopolitical implications of such a sale could be significant, given the strategic interests of India, Nigeria, and Turkey in the region.