When the flight trials of India’s indigenously produced ‘Astra’ missile on the domestically developed Tejas jet fighter start soon, it will mark a huge leap for the country’s armaments industry.
It will propel India into the exclusive league of a handful of nations that have been able to fit domestically produced fighter jets with indigenous ‘beyond visual range air to air’ (BVRAAM) missiles.
Apart from the boost to the country’s pride and self-confidence, Astra will give India’s fighters a definite edge over China’s PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
That’s because Astra compares favourably with the United States-made AMRAAM AIM-120C BVRAAMs that the PAF’s prized F-16s are weaponised with. What’s more, Astra is operationally superior to China’s PL-15 BVRAAM that the PLAAF inducted just four years ago.
The physical parameters of the Mark 1 (Mk1) version of Astra being produced now is similar to those of the AIM-120C. Astra, in fact, can travel at 4.5 Mach while the AIM 120C has a top speed of 4 Mach.
The range of the Astra Mk1 is also more – 80 to 110 km in a head-on chase – whereas the AIM 120C has a range of only 80 km in a head-on chase. Being smoke-free and equipped with a two-way data link, the Astra Mk1’s stealth capabilities are also more than the US-made BVRAAM.
Indian Air Force (IAF) sources said that the ground trials of the Astra Mk1 have been completed successfully. The missile, which has all-weather day-and-night capabilities, has been successfully tested on Sukhoi 30MKI.