With the indigenous beyond-vision air-to-air missile Astra set to be fired in public view for the first time, the Indian Air Force expects to induct the high-tech weapon into its inventory next year.
The missile, which took more than a decade to develop, is undergoing trials which are likely to finish by the year end, an official from the IAF told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Astra will be on display at IAF’s fire-power demonstration Iron Fist in Pokhran, Rajasthan, on March 18, where a Su30 MKI jet will fire the missile. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to scheduled to witness the fire-power demonstration.
According to scientists, the technology for this missile is more sophisticated than that of ballistic missile Agni, as it works on a terminal active radar-seeker and an updated mid-course internal guidance system that helps the missile in locating the target.
The seeker, said the official, was one reason why the missile, being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was delayed for so long.
“The trials are going on well and the missile has given a great performance,” the official said.
The missile can be fired from beyond visual range, honing in and locking on to the target with the help of the seeker. With high-energy propellant, it has the capability to follow it, despite complicated manoeuvres.
“The missile has given high performance, even intercepting a target which was making high-G manoeuvres in more than one trials,” the official said, adding this showed its enhanced capability.
The tests ahead include full configuration firing at actual manoeuvring targets that will mimic enemy fighters. The missile also has the ability to overcome jamming by hostile aircraft — a critical feature.
The Astra is a single-stage solid-propellant missile that is 3.57 m long and 178 mm in diameter, with a 154 kg launch weight and a 15 kg conventional explosive payload.
It has active radar terminal guidance, electronic counter-countermeasures and smokeless propulsion.
The missile has been designed to engage high-speed targets at short range, up to 20 km in tail chase mode and long range, up to 80 km in head-on chase mode, according to the DRDO.
At sea level, it has a range of up to 20 km but has a range of 44 km if launched from an altitude of 8,000 metres and 80 km when fired from an altitude of 15,000 metres.
Except for failure in one test, the missile has completed all tests successfully.