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Indian Air Force to Induct Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM)


Indian Air Force to Induct Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM)

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Indian Air Force Tejas Fighter Test-Fires Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile
Indian Air Force Tejas Fighter Test-Fires Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile

The Indian Air Force has signed contracts worth approximately 386 million US dollars with Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for the procurement of Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) and associated equipment. Astra, a family of all-weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has proven its capabilities, with Astra Mk-1 being successfully integrated into the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft. This contract is a crucial step towards achieving self-reliance in missile production and strengthening India’s defense capabilities. By the end of 2023, India expects to deploy the first batch of Astra-MK1 missiles manufactured domestically, marking a significant achievement in the country’s missile production industry. Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) has received approval from Indian authorities to begin serial production of Astra-MK1, underscoring the commitment to self-reliance in defense manufacturing. The successful integration of Astra missiles into the Su-30MKI aircraft has paved the way for plans to equip other foreign-made fighter aircraft with these advanced missiles, further enhancing India’s defense capabilities.

Astra Mk-1, with a length of 3.6 meters, a diameter of 178 mm, and a weight of 154 kg, boasts impressive specifications. It utilizes mid-course inertial guidance, driven by a fiber-optic gyroscope, and terminal guidance through active radar homing. This missile can receive course corrections through a secure data link, making it highly accurate. The missile’s active radar seeker, designed by Russia’s Concern Morinformsystem-Agat but manufactured in India, has a homing range of 25 km and enables off-boresight launches up to an angle of 45 degrees. Astra Mk-1 is equipped with electronic counter-countermeasures, ensuring its operation even during enemy attempts to jam the seeker. It carries a 15 kg high explosive pre-fragmented warhead activated by a proximity fuse. Astra Mk-1 is powered by a smokeless solid-fueled motor, propelling it to a remarkable speed of Mach 4.5 and enabling operation at altitudes of up to 20 km. Its maximum range varies depending on launch conditions, reaching up to 110 km in head-on chase mode when launched from an altitude of 15 km.

Indian Air Force Inducts Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile
Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI Fighter Test-Fires Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile. (Photo by IAF)

This versatile missile can engage maneuvering targets up to 90 km in head-on chase mode and 60 km in tail chase mode, making it a formidable addition to India’s air defense capabilities. Astra Mk-1 can be launched in both autonomous and buddy mode operations, locking onto its target before or after launch. India is not resting on its laurels; the development of the Astra-MK2 missile, with an even longer range than its predecessor, is already underway. Static firing tests have shown promising results, heralding an upgrade to the Indian Air Force’s combat capability. While Astra Mk-1 has a range of approximately 110 kilometers, the Astra-MK2 is being designed with a range exceeding 150 kilometers. It can be launched in both autonomous and buddy mode operation and can lock on to its target before or after it is launched. Additionally, discussions are ongoing regarding a potential Astra-MK3 iteration with an even greater range, highlighting India’s commitment to advancing its missile technology.

Astra completed final development trials in September 2017 and was cleared for production by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). The missile will be manufactured at Bhanur, Telangana for an initial order of 50 missiles. Additional order of 248 missiles were placed for Indian Air Force and Indian Navy for use on various platforms like Sukhoi Su-30MKI, HAL Tejas, MiG-29 / MiG-29K. On 31 May 2022, Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed contract with BDL worth ?2,971 crore (US$383 million) to produce 350+ units of Astra Mk-1 for Indian Air Force and Indian Navy under high priority Indian Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) category. DRDO already started the process of transferring technology of the missile and associated systems to BDL. Each missile will cost ?7–8 crore. Astra Mk-1 along with other variants of this missile will progressively replace all Russian origin long range air to air missile in Indian fleet.

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