India successfully test-fired its first indigenously developed air-to-air missile, Astra, from a Sukhoi-30MKI combat jet. Astra’s test was part of a series of missile trials lined up by the Directorate of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Scientists are now working on the Nirbhaya subsonic cruise missile, which will be test-fired soon. Its first trial was unsuccessful. The DRDO is aiming at making Astra one of the mainline weapons for the entire fleet of IAF fighters, ranging from the Sukhois to the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas which is still under development.
This would mean that once proven, the missile will have to be produced in large numbers.
The road to the first test from an aircraft was not easy. Extensive ground trials took place before the missile was integrated to the aircraft. Astra is being developed in two stages.
In the first phase, the missile will have a range of around 40 km and this will eventually be extended to 100 km in the next phase.
Astra will undergo a series of trials now as the development process moves towards using the missile to destroy a target.
The new missile has high single shot kill probability, which enhances its accuracy.
The DRDO said it is an advanced missile which can be fired in all weather conditions.
It has features like active radar terminal guidance, electronic counter-countermeasures and smokeless propulsion.
The success of the trial assumes significance as scientists managed to overcome serious design issues, which made it difficult to control the missile.