M A I N   N E W S

Astra missile to be tested this year
Sridhar K Chari
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 8
The flight trials of Astra, India's first attempt at producing an indigenous air-to-air missile, have been targeted for this year, following the sanction of a Rs 1,000-crore project to the DRDO laboratory developing it —the Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL).

DRDL Director Prahlada said the Astra project was initiated by the laboratory more than three years ago, and about Rs 20 crore was spent on ironing out technological issues. The total project period is seven years, with maximum flight trials scheduled to take place between 2006-2007.

The Astra is to be an advanced long-range (Beyond Visual Range - BVR) missile capable of engaging targets more than 80 km away. "It will be cheaper and lighter than existing missiles like the AMRAAM and the MICA," he told The Tribune. It will have a motor propelled by a solid propellant, with advanced guidance that will enable in-flight re-tasking. It will be capable of achieving speeds of around 4 mach.

The Astra is being designed for the LCA, and the target is to have it ready by 2011-2012.

The other important air-armament under consideration is the air-launched version of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, which has successfully undergone several launches, including one where a target was effectively destroyed. The ship launched version weighs about three tonnes, and the air-launched version will weigh 1.5 tonnes.

Modification of the missile itself was not as complex a task as aircraft modification required to mount the Brahmos, he stated. The booster would have to be removed and a more light weight one put in. "If we put it, say on the Sukhoi, extensive work will have to be undertaken, perhaps in collaboration with the Sukhoi design bureau, in order to be able to mount Brahmos. Aircraft modification is what will take time." No clearance yet for such modifications have been given, he said.


‘All missiles are ready, we need orders’

DRDL Director Prahlada has declared that all missiles of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme are ready and orders were needed from the Armed forces in order to keep the programmes alive and personnel motivated.

"Yes, we have been late on them. But they are ready now. We need orders. For example, if the Akash surface to air missile is not given an order, it will go the way of the HF-24 Marut aircraft. We will just kill our capability, the know-how will vanish, and we will have to start from the scratch again years later, like we did with the LCA."

The Akash was demonstrated for a range of 25 kilometres, and the army was now asking for 40 kilometre capability, he said. "Sure, I can go for Mark II, but for that I need an order of say 100 missiles for the existing one. Nowhere in the world is there free R&D. Development and orders are always linked, like in Israel. If that is there, even we as DRDO will not have any excuses."

Even the Brahmos had not yet been given an order, he said. "They now want a short range demonstration, which we will do." Interestingly, even the Russians have not ordered it, because Russia does not permit missiles with foreign components to inducted, he said. "That is the debate going on now, for after all it is a joint venture. But we need the first order from our Navy."

Even the Trishul, where they stopped testing for over a year because of lack of successes, was now glitch free, he stated.

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