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Astra Missile • Features and Significance

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Astra BVRAAM missile
Astra BVRAAM missile

In yet another series of development trials, Astra Missile was successfully launched from Chandipur, Odisha on Friday to validate its reconfigured propulsion, control and guidance systems. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists said Friday’s trial was only a rehearsal. Astra Missile was successfully test-fired from a ground launcher on and the missile successfully intercepted the target mid-air. Lakshya, the indigenously developed Pilotless Target Aircraft was used as the target.

Development trials for the Astra Missile have been going on since 2003. Sources revealed that though the second consecutive test was carried out successfully on Saturday as part of the development trials of Astra Missile at the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Odisha, sources said these were just small steps.

Features of the Astra missile

  • Astra missile is India’s first air-to-air missile.
  • It is Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM).
  • Astra missile is a part of India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).
  • It is 3.8-metre long which makes it the smallest of the missiles indigenously designed and developed by DRDO.
  • Astra missile has a diameter of 178 mm, with an overall launch weight of 160 kg.
  • It uses solid propellant, and can carry a warhead containing conventional explosives weighing 15 kg.
  • Astra missile is designed to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds (1.2 to 1.4 Mach) in head-on and tail-chase modes.
  • Astra missile can be launched from different altitudes:
    • When fired from an altitude of 15 km, can cover 110 km,
    • When launched from an altitude of 8 km, can reach 44 km, and
    • When launched from the sea-level, can cover 21 km.
  • Astra missile can also have mid-course guidance for mid-course correction in case of an electronic target.

Significance of the Astra missile

  • Astra missile allows for engagement of both short-range targets (up to 20 km) and long-range targets (up to 80 km) using alternative propulsion modes.
  • Astra missile is more advanced in its category than the contemporary BVR(Beyond Visual Range) missiles and is capable of engaging and destroying highly manoeuvrable supersonic aerial targets.
  • Astra missile, the active radar homing missile, at its design altitude of 15 km, will enable fighter pilots to lock-on, evade radar and shoot down enemy aircraft about 80 km away.
  • Astra missile can be compared to the U.S. AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), France’s MICA and Russia’s R77 (RVV-AE) missile.

Conclusion

Self-reliance in air launched missile and particularly air-to-air system is of strategic importance considering the new paradigm of air superiority warfare.

PS: After completion of development trials, Astra Missile will eventually be integrated with combat fighter aircraft Sukhoi-30, MIG-29 and the Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas.

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