DRDO quietly tested Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) from a ground-based launcher to validate flight characteristics of the new missile before it can move to next phase of trials. SFDR also sported a new booster-ram jet sustainer propulsion system and trials were an initial phase developmental trials done largely to collect in-flight data of the new missile system which India has been developing with Russia from 2013 onwards.

According to media reports, the prototype of the SFDR Missile will lead to the development of a Long Range Surface to Air Defence Missile System and also will lead to the development of Next-generation Air-to-Air Missile Systems to be equipped on Indian Air Force fighter jets.

According to DRDO, SFDR will have a range of 120 km at 8 km altitude with a speed of 2.3-2.5M. Missile due to its new propulsion system will be able to achieve over Mach 3 speed when operational and will use Inertial guidance, mid-course update via datalink, terminal active radar homing as its Guidance system to achieve “Fire and forget”Capabilities.

A successor to Astra MK-1? 

India’s first Indigenously developed Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) already has entered Small-scale production to be first equipped on India’s Sukhoi-30MKI fleet and later will make it to LCA-Tejas, Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 in batches as production picks up and local integrations will happen in batches in fighter jets.

For long, Rumours of India working on the Successor of the Astra BVRAAM have been doing rounds for some time. Delays which Astra MK-1 project has to face allowed the second team to learn from their mistakes and also work on next alternation in smaller developmental time.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Astra MK-2 might use a Dual pulse rocket motor and thrust vector controls which India had developed for Indo-Israeli LR-SAM / MR-SAM surface-to-air missile system for the development of a range enhanced variant of the Astra BVRAAM which may or may not be called MK-2, some even suggesting it might be called Astra-MK1/B instead since it still will be based on a baseline Astra missile and will have common seeker and other components .

Speculation suggests that Astra MK-2 or Astra MK-3 BVRAAM will be based on technologies which were recently demonstrated for the SFDR Project. Recent trials from ground-based launcher will be followed up with further trials in the Surface to Air mode before missile system is cleared for integration and trails from a fighter jet which may take 5-7 years from now.

Dual pulse based Astra MK1/B or Astra MK-2 is yet to be confirmed by DRDO at this point in time .
  • Astra MK-1 – 75 Km Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM)
  • Astra MK1/B or Astra MK-2 – 100+ km Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM)
  • Astra MK-2 or Astra MK-3 – 120-150 km Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM)

Technology Behind SFDR 

Conventional Rocket Motor based BVRAAMs have higher burning out rate since it works in the same amount of thrust levels from the moment it is fired, which means it can run out of fuel when it reaches its target in longer range and highly maneuverable targets can outrun the missile in the last phase if missile is fired from a long range.

SFDR will have faster acceleration last phase due to Ducted Ramjet Propulsion Technology and unlike rocket motor, Ducted Ramjet Propulsioncan can throttle its engine during different phases of flight thus saving fuel for final approaches towards its target.

SFDR Propulsion can build up speed in its final attack run and also have fuel to manoeuvre during the endgame of the engagement. which then can enforce “no escape zone” effectively over enemy aircraft over long ranges.

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