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Astra test-fired successfully

India on Monday testfired two rounds of country’s first beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAM) Astra back-to-back from integrated test range (ITR) off Orissa coast.

The missile was flight-tested in fully operational stage between 9.45 am and 12.15 pm from the launching complex-II. Once operational, this futuristic weapon will propel India into an elite club of countries such as the US, Russia, France and Israel.

Defence sources said the missile was launched from a specially-built ground launcher and both the flight tests turned out to be huge success for the DRDO. “The missile covered the desired distance as coordinated.

It hit two simulated targets and met all the mission objectives. The tests were aimed at checking the control system and its stability,” ITR director S P Dash said.

The indigenously developed Astra is designed for an 80-km range in head-on mode and 20 km-range in tail-chase mode. As an anti-aircraft missile, it can be fired after receiving a signal from the far away target through its on-board manoeuvres based on radio frequency.

Entirely a complex missile, Astra can intercept fast-moving aerial targets at supersonic speeds (1.2 to 1.4 Mach). A source informed that the missile covered about 20 km.

In November last, the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), which is spearheading the development of the missile, had successfully carried out captive flight trials of Astra on Sukhoi-30 MKI combat aircraft at Pune Air Force station.

“Now the ground tests were also proved successful. The missile is expected to go for integrated trial within a year,” Dash added.

The single-stage, smokeless, solid propelled missile is one of the smallest missiles developed by the DRDO as far as size and weight is concerned.

The missile was initially planned to arm Jaguar, MiG-29 and the light combat air-craft (LCA) Tejas, but meanwhile DRDO has started concentrating on integrating Astra with Indian Air Force’s frontline fighter air-craft like Sukhoi-30 MKIs and Mirrage-2000.

“The unique feature of the missile is that since it can’t be traced by any enemy radar, it can successfully destroy targets. In terms of sheer technology, the Astra is more complex than even the nuclear-capable Agni series of strategic ballistic missiles,” said a defence scientist.

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