IAF To Start Trials Of Astra Missile

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New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has postponed the trial series of visual range air-to-air Astra missile due to bad weather on Thursday. The missile was initially scheduled to be fired from Abdul Kalam island test range, an island off the coast of Odisha on Wednesday.

The trial series will decide if the missile can be inducted into the armed forces by the end of 2017. The Indian Air Force (IAF) is preparing to conduct a series of trials of the Astra air-to-air missile in the next few days. The tests were to begin on Wednesday but were put off to Thursday due to the inclement weather. The tests will determine whether the missile can be inducted into the armed forces by the end of this year.

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Defence sources said the sleek missile, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), would be fired from a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft at an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

This series of tests are particularly aimed at testing the seeker of the missile. The seeker provides the missile guidance as it tracks and locates targets. The seeker being tested is a newly developed indigenous system. It is being tested for the second time, defence officials said. “At least eight trials are planned in this series,” they added. Last year, IAF cleared production of about 50 Astras to gauge the missile’s performance before giving a bigger order.

The missile was tested last December and successfully demonstrated its aerodynamic characteristics, repeatability, robustness and endurance. The IAF and DRDO are working on integrating the missile with the light combat aircraft Tejas. Astra is the first homegrown missile that has been integrated with the Sukhoi-30 MKI. It is an all-weather missile with electronic counter-countermeasure (ECCM) features.

In its category, the single-stage, solid-fueled Astra is more advanced than contemporary beyond-visual-range missiles. Travelling at Mach 1.2 to 1.4 speeds, it is capable of engaging and destroying highly manoeuvrable aerial targets.

The missile has an operational range of 80 km in head-to-head mode and 20 km range in tail-chase mode. The 3.8 m long missile, which has a diameter of 178 mm, can carry about 15 kg of the high-explosive warhead, activated by a proximity fuse. It can duck radar and is the smallest of the missiles developed by the DRDO.

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