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India’s Air Force operates a formidable fleet of aircraft, including the Bison, MiG-29, and Su-30 MKI, which play a pivotal role in the nation’s air defence. These aircraft are equipped with the R-73 E missile, a short-range air-to-air missile of significant importance. In line with the Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) scheme, there is a growing need to manufacture these missiles within the country. To achieve this, the proposal is to produce the R-73 E missiles under the “Make III” procedure outlined in Chapter III of the Defense Acquisition Procedure 2020 (DAP 2020).

The R-73 E missile, known for its exceptional performance, is a critical component of India’s air defence strategy. Developed by the Russian Tactical Missiles Corporation, this short-range air-to-air missile has a range of 30 kilometres, and its latest version, the RVV-MD, extends this reach to 40 kilometres. This missile is designed for dogfights and is capable of engaging air targets from any direction, day or night, even in challenging electronic countermeasure (ECM) environments.

The R-73 E missile is utilized on various aircraft, including fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft. Its impressive agility is achieved through a unique combined gas/aerodynamic control system that enables thrust vectoring. This technology allows the missile to attack targets within off-boresight angles of ± 45? at line-of-sight rates of up to 60 degrees.
The operational capabilities of the R-73 E missile are equally impressive, with the ability to intercept targets flying at speeds of up to 2,500 kilometres per hour and altitudes ranging from 0.02 to 20 kilometres. Its maximum flying range extends to 30 kilometres, making it a versatile asset for air combat scenarios.

One of the most notable instances of the R-73 missile in action was during the dramatic events of 2019 when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India after nearly 60 hours in captivity in Pakistan. This brave pilot had shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet with a short-range R-73 missile during a fierce dogfight. Flying a MiG-21 Bison, Wing Commander Varthaman had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to prevent Pakistani jets from entering Indian airspace.

In the heat of the battle, his MiG-21 was shot down, and he was taken captive by Pakistani forces. His successful engagement of an enemy aircraft with the R-73 missile not only showcased the missile’s capabilities but also the skill and valour of Indian Air Force pilots.

The proposal to manufacture R-73 E missiles within the country under the Atmanirbhar scheme marks a significant stride towards self-reliance in missile production. This initiative not only strengthens India’s air defence capabilities but also aligns with the principles of Atmanirbhar Bharat, reducing dependence on foreign suppliers.

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