India’s Astra Family of BVRAAM continues to expand on its success

IgMp Bureau

India’s Astra Family of BVRAAM continues to expand on its success

Astra Mk1 program has ushered in major boots in India’s Air to Air missile technology and now state-funded defense research agencies have started working on 4 more AAM programs that will free India not only from its dependence on International vendors but also propel India into a small group of countries that have its own AAM family of missiles that will also offer cheaper western standard AAMs at fraction of the cost to other countries.

Astra Mk1 program even at the Limited Scale Production stage is getting major upgrades and changes to keep the missile technology relevant and surpass American AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM in performance and capabilities. DRDO is upgrading its seeker with a new AESA radar seeker where tracking will be more accurate and has better resistance to ECCM in the production batches but now it is also improving its propellent to improve its endgame burn rate and improve on its range in the No Escape Zone (NEZ) of the AAM. such minor changes in final product will only improve its capabilities.

India is also working on short to medium-range imaging IR-guided Astra AAM that will see the development of two variants with unchanged external dimensions despite a completely new internal design of the missile system. The missile will feature Thrust Vector Control (TVC) so that it can pull higher Gs and allow better maneuverability at close range of the target. The second variant will likely carry a dual-mode seeker technology that will see both radar and infra-red (IR) for the terminal guidance that offers a greater chance of a successful engagement. Its not clear if both variant will enter into service but trials of the missile will likely commence in 2023 onwards.

DRDO is also carrying out final design optimization on a new long-range air-to-air missile (AAM) to be called Astra Mk2 that will carry forward most of the technologies that have been developed for the Astra Mk1 program including its AESA Seeker and some of the external design characters but will have a wider dimensions to accommodate new Dual-Pulse motor that will improve its range to 160-180km. Mk2 developmental trials are likely to be carried out in the next few months for which IAF already has deployed 5 Sukhoi-30MKI aircraft to be used as Testbed aircraft that will be involved from the captive flight trials phase to the launch phase of the new AAM. Astra Mk2 and Astra Mk1 will have combined requirement of over 2000 missiles in next decade and will be equipped on Tejas Mk1A and LCA MkII fleet.

Astra Mk3 will be based on the Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) propulsion system presently under development and can be classified as a new very-long-range Indian air-to-air missile (AAM) with a range from 70-340km against AWACS/Tanker size targets. DRDO has commenced ground trials of the booster and the ramjet propulsion system for short durations and have plans to test it for longer duration before it is cleared for captive flight trials followed by launch that could happen in next 4-5 years.

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