In the world of combat, ranged weaponry, has always trumped brute force.
Whether it’s the humble arrow or the latest missile, a remotely-targeted weapons system has the greatest chance of winning an engagement. Case in point — The Astra Missile. It took 15 years to develop, and during that period had to pass several rigorous tests, ranging from simulations to live firings. And now, it’s ready.
Here’s all you need to know
- The Astra looks a lot like a mix between a Matra Super 530D and the Vympel R-77.
2. It is 3.6 m(12 feet) long, has a diameter of 178 mm (7 inches) and weighs 154 kg(340 lbs).
3. The warhead weighs 15kg (33lbs) and is of a high-explosive pre-fragmented type activated by a proximity fuse.
4. The Astra has four long cruciform short-chord wings and four small tail fins.
5. The Astra has a smokeless solid-fuel rocket engine that propels the missile to Mach 4.5 (5,555 kph or 3,452 mph).
6. The maximum firing altitude is 20km (66,000 ft).
7. The range in head-on chase mode (when the target is heading towards the missile) is 110km (68 miles), while the tail chase range (when the missile is chasing the target) is 20km (12 miles).
8. The Astra has short, wide, low aspect-ratio wings, because of which it can engage maneuvering targets at ranges up to 80km (50miles) in head-on mode and 20km (12 miles) in tail-chase mode.
9. It uses an inertial guidance system driven by a fiber-optic gyroscope, while final, or terminal guidance is via an active radar homing seeker.
10. The active radar seeker has a range of 25km (16 miles), is locally manufactured, and can lock on to targets of a 5 square-meter surface area from a distance of 15km.
11. The Astra can achieve lock-on at targets that are up to 45 degrees off its central axis.
12. The HTPB solid-fuel propellant is locally produced.
13. The Astra missile can turn at forces equalling more than 40-g.
14. The Astra operates in two modes — Lock On Before Launch and Lock-On After Launch.
15. The missile has an on-board anti-electronic counter-measures package that helps defeat ECM software used by modern aircraft.
16. In 2014, the Astra saw its first successful live aerial firing off a Su-39 MKI at a test site in Goa.
17. A few years later, in 2016, it was fired in public during Iron Fist 2016.
18. In September 2017, it was fired seven times, using an indigenously-designed seeker head.
19. In 2019, the Astra shot down an aerial target at a 90km (56 miles) range.
20. All flight tests included a Su-30 MKI aircraft.
21. In September 2017, the Bharat Dynamics Limited inaugurated a special production facility to manufacture the Mk1 version of India’s first Beyond Visual Range Air To Air Missile (BVRAAM).
22. The missile will arm the Su-30 MKI, the Mig-29, and the LCA Tejas aircraft.
23. It has been developed as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGDMP)
The Indian Air Force uses the following AA (air-to-air missiles)-
- Python 5 (Israel)
- R550 Magic (France)
- Mica (France)
- R-73 (Russia)
- ASRAAM (UK)
- R-77 (Russia)
- Matra Super 530-D (France)
These missiles are quite expensive. Additionally, in the event of a conflict, we need to be able to equip our aircraft with indigenously-developed missiles. With the successful induction of the Astra series of missiles, India will join an elite club of nations that produces world-class air-to-air missiles.