A German Air Force MiG-29 firing an R-27 missile on an exercise

There have been reports of IAF looking to bolster its fleet of air-to-air missiles

A Russian government agency on Tuesday confirmed that it had signed “large contracts” to supply about 1,000 air-launched missiles to India. On Monday, news agency ANI had reported that India and Russia had signed a deal worth approximately Rs 1,500 crore for the supply of R-27 air-to-air missiles for the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft.

The press office of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation told state-run TASS news agency, “Quite large contracts on air-launched missiles were signed some time ago. They stipulate the delivery of about 1,000 missiles of various designation(s) to India.”

It is yet unclear whether the deals for the 1,000 missiles refer only to the purchase of the R-27 or also includes other types of weapons, including air-to-air and air-to-surface systems.

R-27 Missile

The R-27 is actually a family of medium-range air-to-air missiles that was first introduced in service in the 1980s in the erstwhile Soviet Union. The different variants of the R-27 have maximum ranges varying from 75 km to over 100 km. The NATO code name for the R-27 is the AA-10 'Alamo'.

The R-27 has been considered an older weapon than the US-made AMRAAM, which was fired against Indian fighters by Pakistani F-16s in February, and Russia's own R-77 missile.

The R-27 is unique among medium-range air-to-air missiles as different variants have varied guidance seekers. This includes a variant of the R-27 that has a 'semi-active' seeker that relies on guidance from the radar of the launch aircraft to track its target, an 'active radar' variant where the missile has its own radar seeker and a 'infra-red seeker' variant where the missiles homes in on the heat signature of a target.

The R-77 is an active radar missile. Missiles with active radar seekers are considered more modern and reliable than ones with semi-active guidance as the former minimise chances of detection of the launch aircraft.

The description page of the R-27 on the website of Russian arms agency Rosoboronexport states “the combined use of missiles with different seeker types in the ammunition load increases the effectiveness of aircraft systems’ armament suites”.

The Indian Air Force has made purchases of the R-27 missile multiple times, starting from the 1990s.

Missile-Buying Spree?

There have been reports of the Indian Air Force looking to bolster its fleet of air-to-air missiles following the aerial skirmish with Pakistan on February 27. In June, The Print reported India had ordered “close to 300 short-range air-to-air missiles, the R-73, and 400 medium-range air-to-air guided missiles...the R-77”. The value of the deal was approximately $700 million. The R-73 is an infra-red seeker missile.

Interestingly, earlier in July, ANI reported that India had contracted with Russia to purchase 'Ataka' anti-tank missiles for its Mi-35 helicopters in a deal worth Rs 200 crore.