The launch of Astra, India’s air-to-air missile, for the third day on Monday from a static launcher on the ground at Chandipur, Odisha, proved to be a success. The flight-trials on December 21 and 22 from fixed launchers were equally successful.

On Monday, Astra manoeuvred at 22g (gravitational force) and intercepted an electronic target with 6g. The three triumphs in a row have paved the way for its launch from an aircraft next year. While Friday’s launch too was against an electronic target, Astra destroyed Lakshya, a pilotless target aircraft, the next day.

“It is ready for air-to-air launch,” asserted S. Venugopal, Project Director, Astra, on Monday. He attributed the success of the launches to a young team of engineers of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), aged between 25 and 35 years. They did it by striking “a balance among the stability, controllability and agility of the missile, its vehicle dynamics, control algorithms and on-board technology,” Mr. Venugopal said. “They have developed some of the best technologies for Astra. No country in the world has demonstrated such a successful system in three consecutive launches.” The Astra launched last week and on Monday was a totally reconfigured vehicle. “The configuration is absolutely new. Everything has been changed,” he said. While the earlier Astra weighed 300 kg, the present one weighs 168 kg and is 3.8-metres long.

After three more ground-to-air launches next year, Astra will be fired from aircraft such as Sukhoi-30 MI, MiG-29 and the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, DRDO officials said. It can be launched from different altitudes and the distance at which it can kill an enemy aircraft depends on the altitude from which it is fired.

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