DRDO’s supersonic missile ready for IAF fighters

India’s first indigenous beyond visual range air-to-air missile for fighters, Astra, is now ready for induction after 15 tortuous years of development, with the DRDO expecting the IAF to initially order at least 200 missiles for its Sukhoi-30MKI jets.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation is also already working to increase Astra’s strike range from the existing 110-km to over 160-km. “Astra is one of the best BVRAAMs in the world today. We have the capability to develop it for longer ranges,” said DRDO chief Dr G Satheesh Reddy said.

India has joined a handful of countries like US, Russia, France and Israel in developing such advanced air combat missiles that can destroy highly-agile enemy supersonic fighters packed with “counter-measures’’ at long ranges, say officials. The sleek 3.57-metre long Astra, with a mass weight of 154-kg, flies over four times the speed of sound at Mach 4.5.

To be produced by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics for about Rs.7-8 crore per unit, Astra will be a much cheaper alternative to some of the expensive BVRAAMs currently being imported to arm IAF fighters. Astra was first sanctioned in March 2004 at an initial cost of Rs.955 crore.

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