New Delhi: Keen on making the indigenous Astra missile as its standard long-range weapon for fighter aircraft, the Indian Air Force is promoting its integration on board the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as well as other platforms.
With the French reluctant to integrate Meteor which is beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM) on the LCA as it is an aircraft equipped with an Israeli-origin radar, the Air Force is determined to bring down the heavy imports bill by selecting a home-grown option, and all set to opt for the Astra missile.
“We are not even looking at the French option. We want to promote the indigenous system and have it equipped across all our platforms. The Astra development programme has been satisfactory,” a top official said.
Sources said after the missile is inducted into the Su-30MKI fighter jets from which it has been tested, the system would be integrated on other foreign-origin combat aircraft. The performance of the Astra, sources said, is regarded to be better than similar Russian systems currently in service.
User trials for Astra have been completed and the next stage, DRDO officials say, is for the first production order for the missile system. On board the LCA, integration tests are being carried out and the missile is likely to be part of the weapons package for 83 Mk1A version that is set to be ordered shortly.
Currently, the missile has a range of over 100 km and has been successfully test-fired against Banshee target aircraft simulating all possible threat scenarios. In the most recent user trials last September, the missile was launched with a warhead against manoeuvring targets that were neutralised, including a direct hit of the target at maximum range.