Reports of the Lancer first appeared in 1997 and it made its first appearance in 1998. Based on the airframe of the Cheetah helicopter, the Lancer featured a redesigned 'bubble' made up of smaller toughened perspex panels , two armament pods slung on either side of the aircraft with machine guns and rockets and Armour protection to critical parts of the Helicopter. The Lancer also incorporated Flare / Chaff launchers for protection against the MANPAD threat.
Within months the Lancer saw action first at the operations in Kargil. Though there are no instances of it being used in an offensive role against pakistani troops, it was used for casuality evacuation. The Lancer also saw action in the North Eastern regions against bodo and ULFA militants.
Reports indicate that while the Lancer was sucessful in COIN and suppression activity, an unfortunate side effect was that all Cheetah's were now considered as legitimate targets for hostile fire. Earlier the militants had the policy of leaving Casevac Cheetahs alone. But with the inability to distinguish between the Cheetah and the Lancer, all helicopters have come to be considered as 'Fair game'.
A few late production airframes from the Cheetah assembly were directly built as Lancers. HAL had subseqently started converting older Cheetah's to the configuration of the Lancer.
The Lancer was used in conjuction with a pair of HAL Dhruv's to insert a team of Para Commandos at the Aero India show. In the background, the Dhruv lifts off the ground, as the Lancer sweeps the helipad area.
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