Homegrown missile 'Astra' propels India to 6th world power in defence

Hemant Kumar Rout

BHUBANESWAR: India’s quest for a complex air-to-air missile system seems to be over as after 15 years in the making Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM), Astra has completed developmental trials.The homegrown missile capable of detecting and destroying highly manoeuvrable targets, moving at a supersonic speed, will soon be inducted in the armed forces making the country sixth nation in the world to have such capability.

Final round flight trials were successfully conducted from Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft by Indian Air Force (IAF) over the Bay of Bengal off Odisha coast. Altogether seven missiles were fired against Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA) during the last four days.Defence sources said, the missile was fired at very long range and different altitudes. It successfully engaged high manoeuvring targets at medium range while multiple launches of the missile were carried out in salvo mode to engage multiple targets.

All the sub-systems, including the indigenous Radio Frequency (RF) seeker performed accurately, meeting all the mission parameters and objectives. Two missiles were also launched in the combat configuration with warhead and the targets were neutralised.Director General of Missiles and Strategic Systems Dr G Satheesh Reddy said, state-of-the-art technologies developed under the Astra programme will be the building blocks for development of more variants of air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles.

Earlier, the IAF was mostly dependent on Russian and Israeli air-to-air systems to meet its battlefield requirements. Once inducted, the all weather and all terrain Astra missile could be the mainstay of the nation’s territorial air defence in its category.

Developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), first ground test of the missile was conducted in May 2003. While it was test fired in the night and in inclement weather in June 2010, first trial from a fighter aircraft was carried out in May 2014. The missile was fired against an actual target in 2012 when it destroyed a drone.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has played a role in modifying the aircraft for weapon integration. More than 50 public and private industries have contributed in building the Astra weapon system which has a strike range of 20 km to 100 km. Programme Director, Dr S Venugopal led the launch operations and flight trials along with the teams from multiple organisations.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and DRDO Chairman and Secretary of Department of Defence (R&D) Dr S Christopher have congratulated DRDO, IAF, Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) and industries for the successful trials of Astra missile, a formidable class of weapon system.