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The skies are heating up! MBDA, a European missile giant, is gearing up for the next leg in the Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) race with its MICA Next Generation (MICA-NG). This ambitious project promises to bridge the gap between existing technologies, offering operators like India’s Rafale fighter jets a potent new weapon in their arsenal.

Current MICA missiles, available in both infrared (IR) and radio frequency (RF) variants, fall short of the expected range for modern BVRAAMs, maxing out at 80 km. While the ultra-long-range Meteor reigns supreme with its 200+ km reach, its hefty price tag makes it a costly option. MICA-NG aims to strike a balance, delivering a whopping 160 km range at a significantly lower price point.

To achieve this impressive range, MBDA is harnessing a revolutionary double-pulse rocket motor. This innovative technology provides an extra burst of energy during the final phase of the missile’s flight, boosting its maneuverability and enhancing its ability to intercept fast-moving targets at extended distances.

However, MICA-NG isn’t the only contender in the ring. India’s own DRDO-developed Astra MkI already boasts a range exceeding 110 km, outperforming the current MICA. And even more firepower is on the horizon with the planned Astra MkII, aiming to match MICA-NG’s 160 km range.

So, where does this leave MBDA’s offering? MICA-NG’s appeal lies in its combination of extended range, cost-effectiveness, and compatibility with existing Rafale jets. Moreover, MBDA has explicitly stated its intention to prioritize existing MICA users like India when the missile is ready.

With trials set to begin soon and development slated for completion by 2026, the BVRAAM battleground is about to witness a new entry. Whether MICA-NG can carve out a niche for itself, particularly against India’s growing missile prowess, remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure: the skies are about to get a whole lot more competitive.

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