Earlier this week, India successfully tested its indigenously developed Astra supersonic air-to-air missile. The Astra, developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), is a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capable of being launched from India’s Sukhoi-30 MKI twin-jet air superiority fighter. The Indian Air Force currently operates roughly 200 total Su-30 MKIs, but plans to eventually operate around 270. The Astra is 149 inches in length, making it the most compact missile developed indigenously in India capable of supersonic speeds.
MVKV Prasad, director of the Integrated Test Range in the Indian state of Odisha, noted that the “missile was successfully tested to hit a simulated target” in an interview with the Press Trust of India. The Economic Times notes that the Astra “was tested to prove the maneuvering capability against a simulated target and also to validate various subsystems.” When fired from an altitude of at least 15,000 meters, the Astra can travel as far as 110 km. At lower altitudes, this range is reduced: it is capable of reaching a range of 44 km when fired from 8,000 meters, and 21 km when fired from sea level, according to the Economic Times. The active homing ability of the Astra is limited to 25 km. Under normal use, the highly maneuverable Astra missile experiences up to 30 g of acceleration force.
The Astra, which has been under development for over a decade, will be continue to undergo testing until it is ready for reliable use by the Indian Air Force. S Venugopal, a project director at the DRDO, notes that while the “the fourth and fifth air launch of Astra was once again perfect … more tests will follow to prove its repeatability.” A longer range Mark 2 version of the Astra is planned which will increase its total range, including its active homing and tail chase ranges.
The Sukhoi-30 MKI, the intended bearer of the Astra, is a crucial asset for the Indian Air Force, particularly for a potential two-front war scenario. With a range of 1,800 km and high maneuverability, the Su-30 MKI is India’s primary aerial superiority and dominance fighter. The Astra, if it performs up to expectations, will give India’s MKI fleet considerable offensive power. The following video, from a previous test, showcases the Astra being launched from an Su-30 MKI: