India Set To Test 160 km Range Astra Mk-2 Missile This Month, Astra Mk-3 By Year End: Report

by Swarajya Staff - May 8, 2022 05:35 PM +05:30 IST
India Set To Test 160 km Range Astra Mk-2 Missile This Month, Astra Mk-3 By Year End: ReportThe Astra Mk-I missile tested from a Su-30 fighter of the Indian Air Force

India will test the Astra Mark-2 beyond-visual-range-air-to-air missile this month, a report in the Times of India says.

The report says that the "first live launch" of the missile will be conducted from a Su-30 MKI fighter of the Indian Air Force.

  • It adds that Astra Mark-1 will also be tested this month with an indigenous seeker "instead of the existing Russian AGAT one."

  • It notes that Astra Mark-3, which has a range of about 360 kilometres (km), will be tested sometime later this year.

Context: The development of the Astra missile began in 2001.

  • The Mark-1 version of the missile was tested for the first time in May 2003. Since then, Astra Mark-I has been test-fired multiple times and integrated with Su-30 MKI fighters. Apart from the Su-30 MKIs, it will be integrated with Tejas Mark-1A and upgraded MiG-29s.

  • The 100-km range Astra Mark-1 has cleared all tests. The government has ordered 248 missiles, including 48 for the Indian Navy, from state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited.

  • In 2018, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) informed Parliament that it had formally sanctioned the Astra Mark-2 project, although work had begun informally much earlier.

  • The Mk-2 version is now entering developmental trial.

Why this matters: India is developing the Astra series to replace the expensive Russian, French, and Israeli-origin beyond-visual-range missiles.

  • Astra Mark-2 has a range of around 160 km.

  • The new missile will have improved jammer resistance and an indigenous seeker.

  • The missile will be equipped with a dual-pulse rocket motor, which is critical for its long range.

It must be noted that India is testing the solid-fuelled ducted ramjet (SFDR) technology critical for long-range air-to-air missiles.

  • Astra Mark-3 is based on the solid fuel-based ducted ramjet propulsion, the Times of India report adds.

  • The SFDR propulsion system, which was also tested in 2019, is critical to the missile's performance in the terminal phase.

  • The development of SFDR technology will enable India to make its own long-range air-to-air missile, which could mirror the capabilities of the best missiles in this class, like MBDA’s Meteor, which the Indian Air Force uses on its Rafales.

  • The Meteor missile also depends on its ramjet propulsion for "more energy to maneuver during the endgame of the engagement."

  • "The ramjet motor [propulsion system] provides the [Meteor] missile with thrust all the way to target intercept, providing the largest No-Escape Zone of any air-to-air missile," the literature on the missile on the MBAD website reads.

  • The latest test of SDFR technology was conducted in April this year. The technology had also been tested in March and December 2021.

Dig Deeper: What Gives Meteor Missile, Which Will Arm IAF’s Rafale Fighters, The ‘Largest’ No-Escape Zone

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