Marking an important milestone, for the first time an Indian missile, Astra, was successfully test-fired from a fighter aircraft — the Sukhoi-30 MKI — from a naval range in the Western Sector on Sunday.

The test-firing met all the mission objectives and the air-launch was captured by side and forward looking high-speed cameras and the separation was exactly as per simulation, according to a press release from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Astra is India's first Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile and has been designed and developed indigenously by the DRDO. The 60-km plus range missile possesses high Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP) making it highly reliable.

Astra is an all-weather missile with active radar terminal guidance, excellent ECCM (electronic counter-counter measures) features, smokeless propulsion and process improved effectiveness in multi-target scenario, making it a highly advanced state-of-the-art missile, the release added.

Congratulating the team, Avinash Chander, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and DG, DRDO, observed that the launch was a major step in missile aircraft integration.He said this would be followed by launch against actual target shortly. “Many more trials are planned and will be conducted to clear the launch envelope. Weapon integration with 'Tejas', Light Combat Aircraft will also be done in the near future”, he added.

V. G. Sekaran, Director-General (Missiles and Strategic Systems), who chaired the Flight Readiness Review Committee, described it as one of the proud moments for DRDO and the entire country. Dr.K. Tamilmani, Director-General (Aeronautics), who oversaw the entire flight safety in the program, said the quality of integration and performance was of high standard. This was the beginning of the phase for demonstration of launch over a wide air-launch envelope.

Director, DRDL, S. Som, said “it is a first of its kind and a good achievement”.

Astra's project director, S. Venugopal said the missile was comparable with the best in the world. He said that to completely clear the launch envelope about 20-30 trials would be carried out in a continuous fashion. The air-launch envelope would cover various aspects including altitude, speed and the angle of attack. He said Sunday's test-firing from Su-30 MKI was preceded by several weapon integration trials conducted between November 2013 and February this year. The missile underwent rigorous testing on Su-30 in captive mode for avionics integration and seeker evaluation.

He said the Mk-II variant of Astra with a range of 100 km is planned to be tested by this year end.

He said the air launch was the culmination of effort by a dedicated team from the Missile Complex, Hyderabad, EMILAC (Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification) and the IAF. HAL carried out modifications in Su-30 along with IAF specialists, while many Indian industries played an important role in the production of reliable avionics, propulsion system, materials, air-frame and software passing stringent airworthiness requirements for the missile.

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