Fighter jets of the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be armed with Astra, the country’s first beyond visual range air-to-air missiles.
“The induction of Astra Missiles having Beyond Visual Range capability will serve as a force multiplier and immensely add to the strike capability of the Navy and Air Force,” the Indian Ministry of Defense said in a release Thursday.
The Indian military will also receive other advanced weapons. “Acquisition of new/additional missile systems will add to the fire power of three Services. While acquisition of Pinaka missile systems will enable raising additional regiments over and above the ones already inducted, addition of Long Range Land Attack Missile Systems having a firing range of 1,000 km to the existing arsenal will bolster the attack capabilities of the Navy and the Air Force,” the MoD said.
State-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was responsible for the development of the missile. Ground testing of the Astra began in December 2012 and the missile was cleared for captive flight trials on the Su-30MKI combat platform in April 2013. The first Astra missile was launched from the Su-30MKI in May 2014.
The missile is designed to be launched from fighter aircraft like Su-30, Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and LCA-Tejas. Astra missile system is developed to neutralize aerial targets such as F-16 aircraft, Astra maker DRDO claims.
Notably, the MoD has also cleared a project to acquire additional MiG-29 and Su-30MKI jets from Russia.
The missile can be launched in autonomous and buddy mode of operation with features for Lock-On-Before Launch (LOBL) and Lock-On After Launch (LOAL). The missile has good Electronic Counter-Countermeasure (ECCM) to enable unconstrained operation in an Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) environment.
The Astra is designed to carry 15 kg high explosive pre-fragmented warhead, which is activated by a Radio Proximity Fuse. HMX based high explosive composition and insitue filling technology for Astra warhead of supersonic missile system has been developed by High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL). The missile is a supersonic one and the warhead is designed to be a part of the airframe.
The Astra Mark 1, which successfully completed the trials last year, has a maximum head-on launch range of 100 km, a speed of 4.5 Mach and is cleared for launch up to an altitude of 20 km (66,000 ft).