India has finally tested its first indigenous air-to-air missile Astra from a Sukhoi-30MKI jet, making a significant turn in developing the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weapon. The test-firing over the Arabian Sea off Goa is the first concrete step since its sanctioning in 2004 @ Re. 955 crore. Astra will now undergo full-scale trials, especially against "actual manoeuvring targets", mimicking the enemy aircraft, before its induction.
The DRDO is now confident of meeting its revised target of December 2016. Astra will have a 44-km range with "high single-shot kill probability", while its Mark-II version can hit an enemy aircraft over 100 km away. Astra's successful launch is a major step in missile-aircraft integration, to be followed by missile launch against an actual target shortly.
India will begin testing the 290-km supersonic BrahMos cruise missile using the Sukhoi-30MKIs by the year-end. BrahMos will arm India with a surgical land-strike capability against the enemy targets. The IAF jets are currently armed with expensive Russian, French and Israeli missiles. With target lock-on capabilities, excellent ECCM (electronic counter-counter measures), active radar guidance, smokeless propulsion and better effectiveness in multi-target scenarios, the all-weather Astra is perfectly suitable for advanced air combat.
Only the USA, Russia, France and Israel have succeeded in developing the BVR missiles till date. All components of the Astra, except the RF seeker, are made in india.