India has taken a step that would establish its superiority in air combat over the Chinese PLAAF and Pakistan's PAF. Indian Airforce will start testing the Astra Mark 2 beyond visual range air to air missile this year, which would be capable of taking down enemy aircraft from a range of 160 kilometers.
The extended range Astra Mark 2 would give India an edge over its adversaries and would add more lethality to its fighter jets in aerial combat, like the one which happened a day after the Balakot airstrikes on February 27, 2019.
Government officials reported, "The trial for the Astra Mark 2 would be starting in the second half of this year and we are hoping to see the missile fully developed by 2022, "The next-generation missile is expected to be operational by the next year-end," former Central Air Commander Air Marshal SBP Sinha (Retd) said.
SBP Sinha has been associated with the Astra missile program for a long time now. The Astra Mk1 is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), which flies over four times the speed of sound at Mach 4.5. Efforts are now on to integrate the over 100 km strike range missile on the indigenous fighter aircraft HAL LCA Tejas.
The all-weather day and night capable Astra Mk1, which currently has a kill range of around 100-km, will eventually replace the expensive Russian, French and Israeli BVRAAMs that are currently imported to arm IAF fighter jets.
The Indian Air Force and Indian navy have already given orders for 288 Astra Mark-1 Missiles which are already "proven" on the Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI fighters.
Astra is an all-weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. It is the first air-to-air missile developed by India. It features mid-course inertial guidance with terminal active radar homing.
Astra is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying ranges and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets at a distance of 10 km (6.2 mi) and long-range targets up to a distance of 110 km (68 mi).