SOURCE: RAUNAK KUNDE / NEWS BEAT / IDRW.ORG
In the realm of modern aerial warfare, the race to possess cutting-edge beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) is an essential facet for maintaining superiority in the skies. India, with its thriving defence research and development capabilities, is all set to revolutionize this arena with the forthcoming Astra Mk2, a dual-pulse motor BVRAAM that promises both exceptional range and cost-effectiveness.
The Astra Mk2, set to be a game-changer in the field of aerial combat, boasts an impressive range of over 160km. However, what sets it apart is its striking affordability when compared to the European Meteor missiles, which are presently integrated into the Rafale fighter jets as part of a 2016 deal with French manufacturer Dassault. The Meteor missiles, renowned for their extended range of over 200km and unmatched “No Escape Zone” (NEZ), come with a hefty price tag of over 25 crore rupees per unit, making them a premium choice available to only a limited number of fighter jets.
India’s homegrown Astra Mk1, already operational with select Sukhoi-30MKI squadrons, marked a significant leap in indigenous missile development. With a range of 110km, it levelled the playing field by providing a countermeasure against the Pakistan Air Force’s AIM-120C 5 BVRAAMs carried by their F-16 fleet. This missile, with a cost of around 8 crores, showcased India’s capability to create high-performance armaments at competitive prices.
However, the Astra Mk2 is poised to be the true disruptor. While its projected cost of around 10-11 crores is slightly higher than its predecessor, it remains a cost-effective alternative to its European counterparts. Despite the cost advantage, the Astra Mk2 is engineered to offer approximately 80 per cent of the performance capability of the Meteor missile.
As Astra Mk2 undergoes rigorous testing, its capabilities emerge as superior not only in its cost-efficiency but also in its range. When juxtaposed against the PL-15E BVRAAMs supplied by China to Pakistan, the Astra Mk2 shines brighter. The PL-15E boasts a capped range of 147km, considerably shorter than the Meteors and Astra Mk2s. India’s commitment to creating a missile that outperforms existing options within the region speaks volumes about its dedication to self-reliance and technological innovation.
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