The ASTRA MK-1, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, has a range of 110 km and can travel at 4.5 Mach speed. With advanced features, the missile is a very effective weapon, giving India's fighters an edge in warfare

The ASTRA MK-1 is technologically and economically superior to many imported missile systems.

The Indian Navy and Air Force just got more firepower.

On 31 May, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a contract with defence public sector undertaking Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for supply of the indigenously developed ASTRA MK-1 Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air to air missiles and associated at a cost of Rs 2,971 crore.

According to a statement by the government, the missile is fully integrated into the Su-30MKI fighter aircraft and will be integrated with other fighter aircraft in a phased manner, including the Light Combat Aircraft. The Indian Navy will integrate the missile on the MiG-29K fighter aircraft.

The transfer of technology from DRDO to BDL for the production of the missile “will create opportunities for several medium and small industries in aerospace technology for a period of at least 25 years,” the ministry said.

Let’s take a closer look at the ASTRA MK-1 missile and how its induction into the Armed Forces will be highly beneficial.

What's A Beyond Visual Range Air To Air' (BVRAAM) Missile?

Before we delve into the details of the ASTRA MK-1 missile, we should first understand what is a BVRAAM missile.

A beyond-visual-range missile is an air-to-air missile that is capable of engaging at ranges of 37 km or beyond.

Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) technology enables the fighter-pilots to shoot precisely at the enemy targets which are beyond their visual range.

The ASTRA MK-1 Missile

The ASTRA, the first air-to-air missile developed by India, has been designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

It is intended to engage and destroy aerial targets with high manoeuvrability and supersonic speeds. The missile’s advanced air combat capabilities allow it to engage multiple high-performance targets.

The development of this program was officially sanctioned back in the early 2000s and by 2017, the development phase of Mk-1 version was complete.

The ASTRA MK-1, having a length of 3.57 metres and a diameter of 178 mm, has a range of 80 to 110 km in a head-on chase and can travel at 4.5 Mach speed.

The missile also has a locally developed Ku-band active radar guidance system and a 15 kg warhead.

According to a report, the missiles will cost Rs 7.5 crore apiece, a fraction of the cost of Russian, French, and Israeli BVRAAMs that IAF fighters are now armed with.

The features of ASTRA MK-1 make it a very effective weapon, enabling a very high single-shot kill probability in both head-on and tail-chase modes.

Other Versions of The ASTRA

Newer variants of the ASTRA are already in development with the ASTRA MK-2 and the ASTRA MK-3.

According to sources being quoted in The Print, the ASTRA MK-2, with a longer range of 160 km and using a dual-pulse solid fuel rocket motor should be developed by May 2022.

The ASTRA MK-3, which is also being developed by the DRDO and whose prototype will be out soon, will have the newly developed solid fuel ducted ramjet (SFDR) technology with a range of 350 km.

Why ASTRA MK-1 Is A Big Deal

The induction of ASTRA MK-1 will provide a large standoff range to India’s fighter aircraft that can neutralise the enemy aircraft without exposing itself to air defence measures.

The missile will also reduce India’s dependency foreign sources. Only a handful of missile builders — in the US, Russia, Europe and China — have mastered technologies that go into BVRAAMS. India has now joined that elite group.

The MoD has said that ASTRA is technologically and economically superior to many such imported missile systems and will give India’s fighters a definite edge over China’s PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

As per reports, the ASTRA is operationally superior to China’s PL-15 BVRAAM that the PLAAF inducted four years ago.

Hence, at a time when India continues to have strained ties with China and Pakistan and there’s a threat looming, the ASTRA MK-1 is a huge benefit to India.