Indian Air Force and DRDO are in talks to clear path for bulk orders for nearly 200 indigenously developed Astra air-to-air missile for the entire Su-30MKI fleet over 50 units which was ordered last year by IAF and produced by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) as part of pre-production order for testing and evaluation purposes but with priority given to the Su-30 fleet, HAL and ADA are waiting for IAF clearance for integration of the Astra BVR AAM with the LCA-Tejas.

While ADA wants to start integration and developmental trials with the limited series production (LSP) aircraft available with the agency so that it can be enabled for the 40 Mk1 already ordered by IAF, while HAL wants to keep it exclusive with the 83 Mk1A variant which it has been developing for the IAF.

Tussle seems to between ADA and HAL and who will execute integration work since both Mk1 and Mk1A has different Fire Control Radar (FCR) and both variants require software updates to the Mission Computer (MC) and both agencies want to carry out software and integration work which require fresh funds influx from the IAF.

ADA already has called the Mk1A variant has an Internal development project of the HAL which has no role for the agency in its development. Sources close to have said that the ball is in IAF’s Court now. IAF will need to take a call if it was to enable Astra BVR AAM with ELTA-MMR FCR in the Mk1 or clear it only for ELTA-2052 FCR to be used on the Mk1A variant developed by the HAL.

Israeli developed Derby beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM) and Russian R-73 Close Combat Missile already have been cleared on Mk1 but IAF plans to use Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile developed by United Kingdom’s MBDA instead of Russian R-73 on Mk1A variant and a decision between Derby and Astra BVR is one IAF will take soon.

BEL official who spoke to earlier this year had informed that gradually in phases production of the Astra Missile will be scaled upwards year over year since IAF placed orders only for 50 units last year. with 200 more orders to be placed soon, BEL official had predicted orders for nearly 1000 units for Mig-29, Mirage-2000 and LCA-Tejas fighter fleet shortly.


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