Astra Mk2

Astra Mk2 – A desi alternative to costly Meteor

-Bhagavan Hindustani

Indigenous A2A missile has always been the “ACHILEES HEEL” of the Indian air force as the Indian guided missile development program(IGMDP) which was started in 80’s under Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s supervision consisted mainly of G2G and SAM missile programs and not many A2A or A2G programs. India always relied on foreign vendors for A2A missiles, with Russia and France being the main suppliers and with Israel joining the list in 21th century.

These imported missiles always created problems in one way or the other as some had compatibility issues with cross country platforms as the source codes are sensitive and no country shares them with their customers. We always had to buy these missiles off-the-shelf and use them for what they offer. Another important factor for importing A2A missiles was the presence of imported jet fighter platforms in the IAF. We all know that all of the jet fighters except Tejas, India operates are imported and so does the missiles.

Astra Program

Astra program was the first ever indigenous A2A program started in 1990 . Astra was first showcased to public in Aero India 1998 and a fund of 955 crore rupees was sanctioned in 2004. The initial version of Astra weighed about 300 kilos with a touted range of 25-40 kms and was first test fired in 2003. The missile was too heavy and had a pretty low range. So after the initial tests, the missile was redesigned a number of times and the latest iteration of missile weighted around 154 kgs with official range of 60-80km and 20km in tail chase mode, however actual range is rumoured around 110kms in head-on engagement and 30 kms in tail-chase. The missile went into Limited Series Production in September 2017 with an initial order of 50 missiles. The missile was extensively tested, in one such test in sept 2019, missile engaged a manoeuvring target at range in excess of 90km. The Astra mk1 recently got clearance for series production of around 248 missile for IAF and Indian Navy. The missile is already integrated with Su-30 MKI and as per reports work is on for integrating it with Tejas. Eventually the missile will be integrated fleet wise with all platforms.

Astra Mk2

With Astra being in process of induction, work on the next improved version the Astra, touted as Astra Mk2 was initiated recently. Mk2 variant of Astra is speculated to have a range of 150 kms which will put it in the ranges similar to AIM120D, PL15, Meteor. This is going to be far better than AIM120 C5 (105km) of PAF F16s and will be compareable to PL15 to be used with JF17 Block III. The key to this range extension will be use of Dual Pulse rocket motor, instead of mono pulse rocket motor currently used in astra mk1. Dual pulse rocket motor, as the name suggest consist of 2 stages, one is low burning stage or sustained stage, in this stage the fuel burn at a slower rate and missile zooms forward at a sustained speed. The second is a high burn stage or terminal stage, This stage generally ignites when missile is close to target, the quick acceleration allows missile to close in to its target rapidly while allowing a certain degree of extra manoeuvrability, which limits the targets escape options. Unlike Single pulse motors which losses speed and manoeuvrability towards the end, dual pulse motor allows a better terminal approach

An Alpha-Defense Rendition of Astra family

Meteor Missile

Meteor missile is one of the most advanced A2ABeyond Visual Range missiles currently operated by any country on the planet with official range of 100km and with a no-escape zone of around 60 kms. However rumoured range ranges between 150-300km. India bought the Meteor missiles as a package with the initial batch of 36 Rafale jet fighters from France.

With the said range and with a speed of mach-4, Meteor missile can shift the power balance towards IAF. Meteor missile with throttleable ramjet engine, which allow high terminal stage manoeuvres, can be a game changer for IAF. However the problem with Meteor missiles is the non-compatibility of the missile with any other IAF platform, with MBDA denying integration of missile with Su30mki, Tejas or even Mirage 2000 (in case of mirage terming it too costly and offering MICA NG instead). The maker of the missile MBDA, is a consortium of European countries and you have to have either an European origin jet fighter or at least an European radar to get the missile integrated, as the European countries are reluctant to give away the source codes to other countries. Apart from compatibility issues, Meteor missiles are too costly to buy and operate. Unit cost of one meteor missile can be in the range of 2,000,000 euros. With stringent European laws of acquiring the missiles during an emergency situation, buying and operating them in large numbers can be a burden on the Air force budget.

Why Astra Mk-2 can be a game changer

No doubt in 1 to 1 comparison Meteor is better than Astra mk2 on papers, but with all the disadvantages of meteor missiles such as cost, availability and compatibility, it is always better to have an indigenous alterative for this highly capable missile. This is where Astra Mk-2 comes in. Astra Mk-2 has similar range as Meteor, it can be cost effective for production as it will be made locally. Since it is an indigenous system, it can be integrated with which ever platform we want as we own the technology and the source codes.

Astra Mk-2 can also be exported to friendly countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines if required. As many countries are interested in Tejas fighter, Astra Mk-2 can be offered as a package to attract buyers. As the future of IAF depends on the indigenisation of the fighters, Astra Mk-2 and future variants can become the main stay for us to defend the skies with glory. As said by Vijay P. Bhatkar, the scientist and the master mind behind the creation of India’s first ever super computer, “No country has ever become a super power on borrowed technology.”

By Alpha Defense

Alpha Defense initially a solo venture but now a defense group by people from various demographics of India covering defense news and updates. We believe in unbiased analysis of every subject in hand. Our mission is to provide simplfiied defense information to the public.

5 thoughts on “Astra Mk2 – A desi alternative to costly Meteor”
    1. Why do countries even bother with missiles. Half the time they don’t work without extensive modifications which is unreliable. At other times they are denied by the manufacturer. So what is the point. We have no choice but to use missiles developed in India. I wonder how Pakistan manages. They are behind us in technology and even skill levels so how do they manage?

  1. The 110 km range in headon chase is not a rumor. The maximum range of the A2A missiles vary based on the altitude at which the missile is released from the aircraft.
    If the Astra Mk1 is released from a high altitude, then it can cover a maximum range of 110 km in head on chase mode and 30-35 km in tail chase mode.
    The author must know some technicalities before making such uninformed comments.

    1. These are classified data. As you know only generic data is available in public domain and we didnt find any reliable source for the 110 km head on claim. So we only base our data on reliable sources.

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