SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile per Unit cost has been pegged at ?7.5 crores that roughly translates into $1.1M that raised many eyebrows in the Indian Defence community recently, some calling it far more expensive than some of the similar Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile in the segment and available for IAF and others called high unit price due to limited numbers of orders placed by IAF.
Manufactures of the Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile usually do not advertise unit cost. So the Contract between the Manufactures and the country that is procuring them is usually used as a benchmark to figure out the average unit cost per missile, but this contract also has other arrangements factored in like installation costs, software upgrade costs, missile testing costs, and even missile spares and training round costs so it becomes difficult to ascertain average unit costs accurately.
Russian and American Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missiles usually enjoy scales of economies and a busy production line due to steady orders for fighter jets made and exported by them to other countries. As seen in the above charts, the Astra Mk1 unit cost is not expensive when compared to contemporaries in the same segment like between American AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM and Russian Vympel R-77 RVV-AE. As per IAF, Astra Mk1 is far superior to Russian Vympel R-77 RVV-AE and at par or exceeds in some levels of performance when compared to American AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM.
French MICA IR/RF Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missiles are not only more expensive due to lack of scales of economies but also falls behind among contemporaries in the same segment in range due to which French have now started work on Mica-NG to address the shortfall in performance, while Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile continues to top average unit cost per missile but it is still the undisputed king in the benchmark performance it has been able to demonstrate that has not been able to succeed by other long-range air to air missiles and continues to be called Best and longest ranged Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile.
American AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM overlaps India’s Astra Mk1 in all technical and performance envelope and it won’t be fair to compare both the missiles but the average unit cost difference between both the missile is close to $0.8M per unit that means for every two orders of AIM-120C-8 you can get three Astra Mk1 and still be able to save $0.5M.
Derby BVRAAM that India had procured for its Sea Harrier fleet in 2005 and also part of its SPYDER Mobile Air Defense Systems averages unit cost as same as Astra Mk1 but with a far lower range, even though Derby-ER with a range of 100km is on offer to India, per unit cost couldn’t be calculated since it has not been sold to any country yet.
Astra Mk1 average unit cost might see a further 5-10% drop if scales of economies are factored in, in case of larger order placed by IAF or India can find an export customer of the missile. Even at $1.1M Unit cost, Astra Mk1 is the least expensive among its contemporaries BVRAAMs in the Market and tops the chart in terms of performance in its segment.
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