BHUBANESWAR: The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday conducted an air exercise involving the air-to-air missile Astra against an actual target in full operational configuration over the Bay of Bengal.
Defence sources said the beyond-visual-range (BVR) missile was fired from a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet targeting a pilotless target aircraft (PTA) Banshee. The mission was termed ‘successful’ considering the missed-distance calculation.
People were taken aback by the sound generated by the exercise. It was so loud that window panes shattered in some houses in Balasore. It triggered speculation of a huge explosion.
“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 test was, however, 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.
About the sound, he clarified that when a fighter aircraft travels at supersonic speeds it creates shockwaves that resembles a huge explosion. So there is no need to panic, he added.
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.
Not only the Sukhoi-30 MKI, scientists have 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 informed.
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 launch weight about 154 kg, uses solid-fuel propellant and a 15 kg high-explosive warhead, activated by a proximity fuse.
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 to track this missile as its on-board electronic counter-measures jam signals from the enemy radars.