In an impressive show of technological prowess, India recently achieved a major milestone in its defense and aviation sectors. The country’s home-grown ASTRA beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile was successfully test-fired from its very own HAL “Tejas” fighter jet. This significant test took place off the coast of Goa, making it a proud moment for India’s defense community.
Built by the Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the ASTRA missile showcased its ability to target and neutralize supersonic aerial threats. With the capability to soar at speeds of up to Mach 4.5 and cover distances of 100 kilometers, this missile undoubtedly holds a “beyond visual range” distinction. Initially, the ASTRA underwent preliminary tests using an imported Russian Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter plane. Recognizing its potential, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has already placed orders for approximately 250 ASTRA-1 missiles.
The test was overseen by a conglomerate of esteemed defense bodies including the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, and the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification. Indian Defense Minister, Rajnath Singh, extolled the effort, emphasizing that such advancements bolster the combat prowess of the “Tejas” aircraft and significantly diminish India’s dependence on foreign-made weaponry.
The HAL “Tejas”, born out of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) initiative, was conceived in the 1980s. This ambitious project aimed to phase out the older MiG-21 fighters and replace them with more advanced and reliable aircraft. Today, the “Tejas” line-up includes three models: the Mark 1, Mark 1A, and a dedicated trainer version. Ambitious procurement plans are afoot with the IAF keen on adding 324 aircraft, spanning various “Tejas” variants, to its arsenal. Notably, the anticipated Tejas Mark 2 is set to enter series production by 2026.
The ADA expressed their contentment with the test’s outcome. “The test launch was overseen by Group Captain B Balaji, with a twin-seater ‘Tejas’ trailing the main aircraft, piloted by the duo of Wing Commander Siddarth Singh KMU (Retd) and Wing Commander K P Kiran Kumar. The pilots, in their debriefing, unanimously echoed that the launch was textbook perfect,” stated ADA representatives.
Paving the path to a self-reliant India, or ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’, the integration of ASTRA missiles with “Tejas” fighters accentuates the nation’s push to reduce dependence on imports. ADA insiders hint at forthcoming tests in the upcoming months to further validate the missile’s efficacy. Concurrently, DRDO’s blueprint includes the conception of the ASTRA-2 missile, boasting a remarkable range of 160 kilometers.