The Indian Air Force (IAF) on January 13 announced the induction of the indigenous, 110-km range Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air-missile, Astra.
While detailing its show of strength in the forthcoming Republic Day Parade, the IAF declared that the "Astra has been integrated with Sukhoi-30MKI and will be integrated with the Mirage-2000, Tejas and MiG-29 (fleets) in the future".
The Astra fills up the critical air-to-air missile gap vis-a-vis Pakistan, which was exposed during the post-Balakot aerial confrontation over the Line of Control on February 27 last year.
Against the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) AIM-120 AMRAAMs with a range of 110 km, the maximum air-to-air reach of the IAF was under 80 km with the R-77. As a result, IAF’s frontline Su-30 MKIs were forced into defensive manoeuvres when the AMRAAM-armed PAF F-16s attacked India in retaliation to India’s cross-border air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camp at Balakot in Pakistan on February 26.
The 110-km range of the Astra neutralises Pakistan’s advantage over India in air-to-air weaponry.
The Astra is capable of engaging "both short-range targets at a distance of 20 km and long-range targets up to a distance of 80-110 km" at varying altitudes, an IAF spokesperson elaborated.
The Astra is India’s first indigenous air-to-air missile. The features of this all-weather BVR include mid-course inertial guidance with terminal active radar homing.