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IAF conducts captive flight trials of Astra missile

Su-30MKI fighter aircraft. A file photo.

NEW DELHI (BNS): The Indian Air Force has successfully conducted captive flight trials of the country’s first indigenously built Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) at the Lohegaon Air Force Station in Pune.

A Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, carrying the Astra missile, took off from the Lohegaon Air Force Station on a 90-minute sortie on Saturday, according to news reports.

Four such sorties, including flying the missile at supersonic speeds, had been accomplished earlier last week.
With a range of 80 km in head-on chase and 20 km in tail chase, Astra has a pre-fragmented warhead and is fitted with a proximity fuze. It is equipped with sophisticated electronics to avoid enemy radars.

The active, radar homing of the missile, which at its design altitude of 15 km, enables fighter pilots to lock-on, evade radar and shoot down enemy aircraft. Part of India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, Astra has been under development at a number of defence laboratories led by Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory.

Captive trial of the missile will help in determining various aspects such as its mechanical, structural and electrical compatibility with the aircraft, and also weather variations, stress, strain etc. at the design level, the reports said.

Only after the missile is proven in captive flight trials, it can be fired from an aircraft.

The second phase of such trials – avionics integrity tests – are expected early next year and will involve integration of the missile’s avionics with that of the aircraft, and a dialoguing between the cockpit and the missile.

The actual firing of Astra from the Su-30MKI is expected in July-August 2010.

The missile will be initially fitted on the Su-30MKI and Mirage 2000 aircraft, while the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and MiG-29 are scheduled to be equipped with it later.

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