India unveiled on Monday its first batch of locally-made attack helicopters, designed primarily for use in high-altitude areas like the Himalayas where its troops clashed with China in 2020.
The Light Combat Helicopters are seen as another milestone in Indian efforts to reduce dependence on Russia, its main source of arms, and other suppliers.
The choppers made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) “will be a big boost to the Indian Air Force’s combat prowess”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said at Jodhpur air base in western India.
“It is a momentous occasion, a matter of great pride, and a result of two decades of diligent research and development,” Singh said.
Officials said that the aircraft had been tested at altitudes up to 16,000 feet (4,875 metres) above sea level.
India has been seeking to build up its domestic defence industry, unveiling its first locally-made aircraft carrier last month. This drive has been given added impetus by worries about future supplies of Russian spare parts following the invasion of Ukraine in February.
While remaining a close ally of Russia — it has refused to condemn the invasion — India also shares Western concerns about growing Chinese assertiveness.
Relations between the world’s two most-populous nations plunged after a hand-to-hand battle on their disputed Himalayan border left 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers dead in 2020.
The two Asian giants, who fought a full-scale war in 1962, mobilised tens of thousands of soldiers in the region, although they announced a partial withdrawal on September 8.