IAF conducts final development trials of Astra missile

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday conducted final development trials of the beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Astra, with successfully shooting down real life targets over the Bay of Bengal.
Astra missile
The final development flight trials of Astra - beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) were successfully conducted over the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of Chandipur,  Odisha from 11 to 14 September.

Astra is designed for 80-km range in head-on mode and 20 km range in tail-chase mode. The 3.8-metres long missile, which has a launch weight of about 154 kg, uses solid-fuel propellant and a 15 kg high-explosive warhead, activated by a proximity fuse.

The IAF successfully conducted a total of seven trials against pilotless target aircrafts (PTA) during the trials, a DRDO release said, adding, the mission was termed 'successful' considering the missed-distance calculation.

The missions included engagement of target at very long range, engagement of high manoeuvring target at medium range and multiple launches of missiles in salvo to engage multiple targets. All the sub-systems, including the indigenous RF Seeker, performed accurately, meeting all the mission parameters and objectives, according to DRDO.

Two missiles were also launched in the combat configuration with warhead and the targets were neutralised. Defence sources said the missiles were fired from a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet targeting a pilotless target aircraft (PTA) Banshee.

Reports said the IAF trials generated sounds so loud that window panes shattered in some houses in Balasore, triggering speculation of a huge explosion on the ground.

''The exercise was conducted in a war-like scenario and the missile was fired on an actual target. Data collected during the test is being examined,'' said an official.

The tests were conducted to demonstrate the aerodynamic characteristics and killing ability of the missile. It demonstrated the repeatability, robustness and endurance capability of the Astra weapon system, said the official.

Indigenously designed and developed by DRDO, Astra possesses single shot kill probability (SSKP), making it highly reliable. It is an all-weather missile with active radar terminal guidance, excellent electronic counter-counter measure (ECCM) features, smokeless propulsion and process improved effectiveness in multi-target scenario.

Fitted with a terminal active radar-seeker and an updated mid-course internal guidance system, the missile can locate and track targets. It is difficult for enemy radars to track this missile as its on-board electronic counter-measures jam signals.

With this, DRDO and the Indian Air Force have completed the development phase of a state-of-the-art BVRAAM weapon system successfully.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has played a role in modifying the aircraft for weapon integration. More than 50 public and private sector units have contributed in building the Astra weapon system.

Besides the Sukhoi-30 MKI, HAL has started integrating the weapon with homegrown Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The air exercise will continue for some more days involving two other air-to-air missiles apart from Astra, sources said.

S Venugopal, programme director, led the launch operations and flight trials along with the teams from multiple organisations.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman congratulated DRDO, IAF, Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) and industries for the successful trials of Astra Missile. Chairman DRDO and secretary Department of Defence (R&D) Dr S Christopher congratulated the 'Team Astra' (DRDO, IAF, DPSU & Industries) for developing and flight testing such a formidable class of weapon system.

Director general, missiles and strategic systems G Satheesh Reddy, said the technologies developed under the programme will be the building blocks for development of more variants of air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles.