The Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced that one of its limited series production Tejas Mk 1 light combat aircraft (LCA) successfully launched an ASTRA all-weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) for the first time during a test off the coast of Goa in southwest India on August 23.
The ASTRA BVRAAM was launched from the seventh limited series production aircraft to be manufactured, Tejas Mk 1 (LSP-7/KH2017) – which completed its maiden flight on March 9, 2012 – at an altitude of approximately 20,000ft (6,096m). The test was monitored by scientists from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), who were joined by officials from India’s Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DG-AQA).
According to the Indian MOD, LSP-7/KH2017 was monitored by a dual-seat Tejas chase aircraft for the duration of the test. “All objectives of the test were met and it was a perfect text book launch,” the Indian MOD added. This test launch marked the first time the munition had been fired from a Tejas LCA, with previous test-firings having been carried out by Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKI Flanker-H fighters.
Designed indigenously by the DRDO and manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Ltd, the ASTRA family of all-weather BVRAAMs is capable of engaging targets at ranges of between 80-110km. Fitted with a high explosive pre-fragmented warhead, the BVRAAM can travel at speeds of up to Mach 4.5 and is guided by a terminal active radar homing seeker.
The Indian MOD has already ordered 248 ASTRA Mk 1 BVRAAMs, comprising 200 examples for the IAF and 48 for the Indian Navy. India intends to integrate ASTRA onto its Tejas Mk 1/1A, Su-30MKI, MiG-29K Fulcrum-D and MiG-29UPG ‘Baaz’ fleets. New Delhi also plans to integrate the munition onto its Tejas Mk 2 and Rafale fleets going forward. Work is also underway to develop a new, long-range variant of the BVRAAM, dubbed the ASTRA Mk III, which is slated to have a range of more than 300km and be powered by a solid fuel-based ducted ramjet engine.