Indian Air Force (IAF) is of the verge of getting an air-to-air missile which can hit a target 90 kilometres away with the successful test-firing of Astra from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighter on Wednesday. The test-fire of Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) jointly by the IAF and Defence Research and Development Organisation saw the weapon hitting an aerial target at its maximum range of almost 90 km.
Astra missile was test-fired on Tuesday, too, from a Su-30MKI with a range of 70 km. The fighter was launched from an airbase in West Bengal and fired the missile off Odisha coast as part of the user trial. The IAF even shared a 35-second long video of Tuesday's test-firing.
While IAF's Su-30MKI is capable of firing the indigenously developed Astra missile, the other combat aircraft in the force's arsenal like the Mirage-2000, Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 and Light Combat Aircraft CA Tejas will also be modified to carry the missile.
Designed and developed by the DRDO, Astra is manufactured by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Limited. There are plans to develop a longer-range version of Astra which can hit targets even 300 km away.
In July 2019, India signed an agreement worth Rs 1,500 crore with Russia for 300 Vympel R-27 medium-to-long-range air-to-air missile. IAF will arm the Su-30MKIs and MiG-29s with Vympel R-27R1/ER1 and R-27T1/ET1 variants to give the fighters greater lethality.
While the R-27R1 has a range of 75 km, the ER1 can hit a target 100 km away. Both the missile variants use semi-active radar for guidance and employ radar proximity-contact target sensor as the fuse. On the other hand, the R-27T1/ ET1 has a range of 500 metres to 80 km. All of them carry a rod, load-bearing warhead of 39 kilogrammes. They are guided by semi-active radar and have the radar proximity-contact target sensor as the fuse.