The Astra missile is an air-to-air missile that has attracted global attention. India's Bharat Dynamics Limited aims to become a global leader in missile and weapon system manufacturing. India has also started the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) to become self-reliant in missile development.

Self-reliance in air launched missiles and particularly in Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) system is of strategic importance considering the new paradigm of air superiority warfare, and with the service entry of indigenous hypersonic (Mach 4 plus) Active-Radar Homing (ARH) Astra BVRAAM India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) seems to have produced a missile that is arguably capable of matching or outmatching similar class of missiles of United States, Russian and European origin. Astra is technologically and economically superior to many such imported missiles.

Export Potential

With the Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" in operation with several Air Forces around the world and the successful completion of multiple tests from IAF's Sukhoi Su-30MKI (variant of the Su-27 "Flanker") jets, it can therefore be conjectured that foreign operators would be interested in integrating this sophisticated missile on their Russian origin fighter jets. The Russia-Ukraine war has aggravated the supply chain of weapons and parts to these operators. The export potential is present but the DRDO should scale up production and maintain strict quality control to not only cater to both the domestic and foreign markets. The Astra now has significant indigenous components which are manufactured locally and this could help the country to export the missiles in large number without much hindrance and the Indian missile would be much cheaper to procure and operate for these Air Forces.

Countries that operate the Su-27/Su-30 have been reported to have expressed keen interest to procure that Astra MK-1 missiles, these include staunch allies like Vietnam and Armenia, and few dodgy ones like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Algeria.

Moreover, the recent surge in India’s arms sales to Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia, points to New Delhi’s desire to become a key arms supplier in a bid to stem China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Indigenous Drive of Astra BVRAAM

The Astra MK-1 is a Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) developed by India's Defence Research and Development Organization. It's capable of engaging targets at ranges of 37 km or more, with an operational range of 60 km.  The Astra MK-1 has a maximum head-on launch range of 100 km, a speed of 4.5 Mach, and launch clearance up to 20 km in height.  It can be launched by the mother aircraft or fired in buddy mode.

As part of induction phase trial the missile was tested on 18 March 2015 from an Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter against a simulated live target to verify the control system and missile stability during flight. The prototype of the missile was first tested during on 9 May 2003 from the Integrated Test Range (ITR). On 27 March 2007, vertical launch of the missile was carried out, suggesting the development of a Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) variant. Following further tests dual mode guidance was fully proved during May 2009 followed by captive flight tests on a Sukhoi Su-30MKI were carried out near Pune in November when several sorties were conducted. The series of numerous tests initiated on 20 May 2011 and focussed on evaluating the performance of the smokeless non-metallised high specific impulse propulsion system, rocket motor, and the configurations of the vehicle and aero-dynamics evaluation with the missile incorporating significant changes and incorporating advanced technologies in due course.

The all-important seeker was initially provided by Russian Agat with an autonomous homing range of 25-km plus enabled off-boresight launches up to an angle of 45-degrees and produced in India through a total transfer-of-technology process. As a further step towards indigenisation and self-reliance, on 15 September 2017 Astra BVRAAM was test fired from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI with an indigenous Ku-band pulse Doppler radar seeker developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI). With an antenna diameter of 140-mm and weight of 12.5-kg the lock on range is well in excess of 12-km and gimbal angles of plus/minus 55-degrees. The same indigenous seeker is also set to arm the Akash-1S Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) variant and also QRSAM.

Today it is very much evident that the ambitious program has achieved significant milestones in the arena of technical brilliance and self-reliance.