Independence Day
     

IAF announces induction of Astra, its most potent air-to-air missile

Integration of indigenous BVR missile with Su-30MKI neutralises Pakistan's advantage with 110 km range

January 13, 2020 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By IAF, SP Guide Pubns
The Astra Beyond Visual Range (BVR) being fired from an IAF Su-30MKI fighter

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on January 13 announced the induction of the indigenous, 110-km range Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air-missile, Astra.

While detailing its show of strength in the forthcoming Republic Day Parade, the IAF declared that the "Astra has been integrated with Sukhoi-30MKI and will be integrated with the Mirage-2000, Tejas and MiG-29 (fleets) in the future".

The Astra fills up the critical air-to-air missile gap vis-a-vis Pakistan, which was exposed during the post-Balakot aerial confrontation over the Line of Control on February 27 last year.

The IAF declared that the "Astra has been integrated with Sukhoi-30MKI and will be integrated with the Mirage-2000, Tejas and MiG-29 (fleets) in the future"

Against the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) AIM-120 AMRAAMs with a range of 110 km, the maximum air-to-air reach of the IAF was under 80 km with the R-77. As a result, IAF's frontline Su-30 MKIs were forced into defensive manoeuvres when the AMRAAM-armed PAF F-16s attacked India in retaliation to India's cross-border air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camp at Balakot in Pakistan on February 26.

The 110 km range of the Astra neutralises Pakistan's advantage over India in air-to-air weaponry.

Against the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) AIM-120 AMRAAMs with a range of 110 km, the maximum air-to-air reach of the IAF was under 80 km with the R-77. As a result, IAF's frontline Su-30 MKIs were forced into defensive manoeuvres when the AMRAAM-armed PAF F-16s attacked India in retaliation to India's cross-border air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camp at Balakot in Pakistan on February 26

The Astra is capable of engaging "both short-range targets at a distance of 20 km and long-range targets up to a distance of 80-110 km" at varying altitudes, an IAF spokesperson elaborated.

The scaled down model of the IAF tableaux for the 2020 Republic Day Parade features the Astra (Right) along with the Rafale fighter (Left) as "recent additions to the IAF inventory"

The Astra is India's first indigenous air-to-air missile. The features of this all-weather BVR include mid-course inertial guidance with terminal active radar homing.

The IAF tableaux at the Republic Day Parade this year will include scaled down models of five "recent additions to its inventory - the Rafale aircraft, the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) and Light Combat Helicopter, Surface to Air Guided Weapon Aakash Missile system and the Astra Missiles".

The Astra is capable of engaging "both short-range targets at a distance of 20 km and long-range targets up to a distance of 80-110 km" at varying altitudes, an IAF spokesperson elaborated

It was also announced that four Rafale fighters have so far been inducted "which are being utilised to further hone the skill of the IAF pilots in France". The first lot of the 36 Rafale jets on order for the IAF will land in India in May this year.

The Republic Day flypast this year will comprise 41 IAF aircraft and four Indian Army helicopters. The newly-inducted Apache and Chinook helicopters will feature in the R-Day flypast for the first time.

The IAF marching contingent will be led by Flight Lieutenant Shrikant Sharma.