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Astra air-to-air missile

India is developing a medium-range air-to-air missile called Astra, with test flights scheduled for late 1999. India would become the first of the developing countries to develop such a state-of-the-art air-to-air missile. The missile will give IAF fighters an edge in an air battle, as the Pakistan Air Force does not have such a beyond-visual-range [BVR] missile with a "fire-and-forget" capability in its arsenal. India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing this advanced beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) for the Mirage 2000, MIG-29, Sea Harrier, Su-30, and the Light Combat Aircraft [LCA].

The missile will augment the IAF's BVR arsenal, which includes the Matra Super 530D, the AA-10 Alamo-C and the AA-12 Adder. The Astra is intended to have performance characteristics similar to the AA-12 Adder. The Russian-made Adder has a range of 100 km and files at four times the speed of sound. The AA-10 Alamo-C has the longest range of missiles in IAF service, with a range of 130 km.

Astra is said to be configured like a long Matra 530, narrower in front of the wings. Initially designed to use a locally-developed solid fuel propellant, DRDO is also looking at rocket/ramjet propulsion to provide greater range and an enhanced kinematic performance. The missile would be capable of turning at a '40 G-plus rate' with an eventual operational range of over 100 km. The missile was initially said to be 3.8 meters long, and equipped with an active radar-seeker. The Astra will use a mid course internal guidance system to track target aircraft. The missile has an active radar seeker to find targets, and electronic counter measure capabilities that allow the missile to jam radar signals from an enemy surface-to-air battery to ensure that the Astra is not tracked or shot down. Astra would have a 15 kg warhead with a proximity fuse.

The missile, which has strike range of 25 to 40 km, uses a terminal active radar-seeker and a mid-course internal guidance system with updates to track targets. The on-board capability allows it to jam radar signals from an enemy's surface-to-air battery, ensuring that the missile is not tracked or shot down. The 3.6-meter long missile [according to a 2008 report] has a launch weight of about 154 kg and uses solid-fuel propellant and a 15 kg high-explosive warhead, activated by a proximity fuse. The missile has a maximum speed of 2.2 Mach and a maximum altitude of 20 km.

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