Indian Air Force is expected to receive country’s first indigenous beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) Astra by the end of this year.
After the Akash surface-to-air missile, Astra air-to-air missile has been developed fully indigenously. The missile will cost India very less as compared to existing stock and is custom made to the Air force’s requirements.
It is an all weather missile and allows IAF jets to hit aerial targets up to 60 km away.
Astra is a single-stage solid-propellant missile that is 3.57 m long and flies at a speed of over four times the speed of sound at Mach 4.5. It has already been successfully tested with “pre-fed, fixed target coordinates.”
The missile is equipped with active radar terminal guidance, electronic counter-countermeasures and smokeless propulsion.
Astra has been designed to engage high-speed targets at short range, up to 20 km in tail chase mode and long range, up to 80 km in head-on chase mode, according to the DRDO.
The technology used in Astra is more sophisticated than Agni, as it works on a terminal active radar-seeker and an updated mid-course internal guidance system that helps the missile in locating the target.
The seeker helps in firing the missile from beyond visual range, honing in and locking on to the target. With high-energy propellant, it has the capability to follow it, despite complicated manoeuvres.
With Astra, India joins a handful of countries like the US, Russia, France and Israel which have developed such sleek missiles capable of detecting, tracking and destroying highly-agile hostile supersonic fighters packed with “counter-measures” at long ranges.
At the moment, Indian fighter jets are equipped with Russian, French and Israeli BVR missiles, which are pricey.
The IAF is planning to integrate the missile with the Tejas light combat aircraft.
DRDO is also developing a more powerful BVRAAM Astra Mk 2 with a range of 100 km.