The Indian Air Force (IAF) is inducting the new Astra Beyond Visual Range (air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).These deployments come after the Balakot strike that saw Indian aircraft cross the Line of Control with Pakistan to attack terrorist camps. A dogfight ensured between Indian and Pakistani fighter aircraft. The Pakistani aircraft were equipped with the AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM, which outranged the R-77 and MICA missiles used by India. To help correct this deficiency, India is procuring the Indian-made Astra BVRAAM and the European-made Meteor B VRAAM.
The Astra has been integrated with Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI and will be integrated with Dassault Mirage 2000, HAL Tejas and Mikoyan MiG-29 in the future. Limited series production of Astra missiles began in 2017. The Meteor will arm Indian Air Force ‘s new Dassault Rafale fighters. The improved version of Astra will offer a range comparable to the Meteor’s one. Indian Air Force is also integrating the Israeli I-Derby Extended Range missile on its Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat aircraft.
Astra (Sanskrit: “weapon”) is an all weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. It is the first air-to-air missile developed by India. It features mid-course inertial guidance with terminal active radar homing. Astra is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets at a distance of 20 km (12 mi) and long-range targets up to a distance of 80–110 km (50–68 mi).
Astra went through a series of ground tests from 2003 till 2012 in three different configurations to validate the airframe, propulsion system, control system, dual mode guidance and night firing capability. On 18 March 2016, the missile was fired in public during Iron Fist 2016 exercise from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI. During a series of seven tests in September 2017, Astra was tested twice with an indigenous seeker. During user trials in 2019, Astra managed to hit a target at a distance of 90 km (56 mi).