India's domestic air-to-air missile passes critical test launch

In a first for the nation, India has successfully tested its domestically-produced ASTRA beyond visual range air-to-air missile from its homegrown HAL "Tejas" fighter.
Christopher McFadden
Screenshot of footage from the test launch.


An Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) "Tejas" fighter has successfully tested an ASTRA indigenous Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile off the coast of Goa, Indian Express reports. Both domestically-built, the ASTRA missile launched at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), and all other mission test objectives were met. The missile, developed by Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), is designed to engage and destroy highly maneuverable supersonic aerial targets.

Home-grown missile

The missile can fly up to Mach 4.5 and has a range of 62 miles (100 kilometers), hence "beyond visual range." Before this test, initial experiments on the armament were carried out using an imported Russian Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter plane. To date, the Indian Air Force has an order for roughly 250 ASTRA-1 missiles, the Defense Post reports.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, and the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification monitored the first-of-its-kind launch in western India, which Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh praised. According to Singh, the test would enhance the "Tejas" aircraft's combat capabilities and reduce its reliance on imported weapons.

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) "Tejas" is a light multirole fighter created by the ADA in collaboration with the Aircraft Research and Design Centre for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy. It was developed from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program, which began in the 1980s to replace India's aging MiG-21 fighters. Currently, the "Tejas" has three production models: Mark 1, Mark 1A, and a trainer version. The IAF has ordered 32 Mark 1s, 73 Mark 1As, and 18 Mark 1 trainer aircraft. The IAF plans to procure 324 aircraft in all variants, including the Tejas Mark 2, which is expected to be ready for series production by 2026. The LSP-7, standing for "Limited Series Production," is the penultimate series of the aircraft, with the LSP-8 intended as the final production run.

“The test launch was monitored by Group Captain B Balaji. The aircraft was also monitored by a chase 'Tejas' twin-seater aircraft piloted by Wing Commander Siddarth Singh KMU (Retd), Flight Test Pilot, and Wing Commander K P Kiran Kumar. During the hot debrief, pilots commented that all the objectives of the tests were met and it was the perfect textbook launch,” the ADA said.

Reduce import dependence

According to the ADA, having the capability to launch the ASTRA missiles from "Tejas" fighters will boost combat ability and reduce reliance on imported weapons. “The indigenous Astra BVR firing from homegrown Tejas fighters is a major step towards Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. Further launches are planned in the next few months to verify the performance,” sources in the ADA said.

The DRDO is also reportedly developing an ASTRA-2 missile with a 99.4-mile (160-kilometer).

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