New Delhi: The aerial dogfight on February 27 in Nowshera sector brought to fore the vulnerability of the IAF fighters against the Pakistani jet armed with US-made AIM-120 C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM).

On February 27, 2019, a formation of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighters which included US made F-16's approached the LoC to attack military targets in India. The IAF reportedly scrambled eight fighter planes, including two SU-30MKI jets to intercept the Pakistani formation. IAF was stunned by use of AIM-120 C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) by Pakistan. The long range missile was fired from the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

IAF's Sukhoi-30MKI (Su-30MKI) air superiority multipurpose fighter jets are armed with Russian-made R-77 missiles. The IAF then realised that the Russian R-77s, did not have the range to counter the Pakistani fighters. The range of Russian missiles is believed to be approximately 80 kilometres. Reports say that two SU-30MKI's managed to dodge the AMRAAMs which were fired at close to their maximum range of 100 kilometres.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) was looking to modernise its Sukhoi-30 fleet, and that gathered significant pace after the February 27's dogfight with PAF F-16s.

The IAF has now decided to re-arm frontline Sukhoi-30 fighters with Israeli Derby air-to-air missiles. I-Derby ER (extended range) beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) would eventually replace Russian-made Vympel R-77 (AA-12 'Adder') AAMs by 2021-22, claims a report in Jane's. IAF has already successfully tested the BrahMos hypersonic cruise missile for a ground attack role on the Su-30MKI platform. The integration of I-Derby ER is expected to make Su-30MKI's air superiority role complete.

The fire-and-forget I-Derby ER missile features a software-defined radar seeker and a dual-pulse solid rocket motor. Another advantage of the I-Derby ER is its ability to lock onto targets before and after launch, enabling the aircraft to engage targets at all ranges. The main challenge, however, is integrating the I-Derby ER missile into the Russian fighter.

An NDTV report says that the I-Derby missile is a considerably more advanced that the missiles presently in service with the IAF. With a range of beyond 100 km, the I-Derby ER said to be significantly better than Russian-made R-77s.