SOURCE: MAHESHA M / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
After recent Aerial clash with Pakistan, there is a mad rush to procure next-generation air to air missiles from various countries to arm them on front line fighter jets like Su-30MKI, Mig-29 and Mirage-2000 with Western, Indian and Russian developed even though no such urgency has been shown to expedite development of local indigenous programs in the first place.
IAF till now has placed token order of only 50 Astra Mk1 Beyond visual range missile (BVR) even when there is urgent need to fast track production of the missile system due to dip in the stockpile of air to air missile due to the excessive number of combat air patrol missions along the border with Pakistan recently due to heightened tension.
While the development of Astra Mk1 successor which is Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) program has begun ground developmental trials recently but even by the own admission of the Indian Air force officials, the program is not likely to mature and enter production even in next 10 years due to missile propulsion technology which is fairly new and is still in infancy stage of its development.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which was in charge of developing Astra Mk1 AAM had planned a successor which was still supposed to use a solid propellant which included improvements capability such has increased in excess of 100 km and LOBL (look down shoot/down-look capability ) and LOAL modes of operations with improved two way secure data link system .
Present Astra Mk1 has a non-classified range of 75-80km and proposed Astra Mk2 was convinced as a newer version of the missile system developed to compliment each other. Since Astra Mk2 was supposed to be an Extended Range version of the baseline Astra Mk1 which utilized proven technology derived from the Mk1 program it had additional fuel space for the propulsion system to achieve extended range. Astra Mk1 and Astra Mk2 could have provided a superior war-fighting capability for the Indian air force while working in tandem and as an alternative to the import which now IAF is seeking.
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