NATIONAL

Astra's third flight successful

Special Correspondent

The launches of the air-to-air missile took place from the ground

It has mechanical, electrical and avionics adaptabilityMissile developed by DRDL, Hyderabad

CHENNAI: Astra, India's air-to-air missile, was successfully launched from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, near Balasore, Orissa on Thursday morning. This was Astra's third flight in five days, with the previous flights taking place on March 25 and 26. All the three launches took place from the ground at Chandipur.

"Today's flight was good," said Prahlada, Chief Controller, Research and Development (Services Interaction), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). This was the beginning of a series of launches of Astra and there would be a minimum of 40 flights, he said. "We have to prove Astra's control system, propulsion system and so on. Today's flight was to prove its control system. For the first time today, we tested the missile's computer, navigation system and the control system," Dr. Prahlada said.

The flights on March 25 and 26 were to test the missile's propulsion system.

On when the missile would be launched from an aircraft, he said Astra had been designed as an air-to-air missile but the initial flights would be from the ground. After about 10 flights from the ground, it would be launched from an aircraft.

It was a boost-coast missile, that is, after boosting in flight, it would coast along. Although the missile has a range of 80 km, these experimental flights had no range, Dr. Prahlada said.

Astra weighs 154 kg and is 3.5 metres long.

It can reach a speed of 0.4 Mach to 2 Mach. It is a single-stage missile powered by solid propellants. It has a smokeless propulsion system. Its aerodynamic configuration makes it agile. It can be launched in different kinds of weather.

It has mechanical, electrical and avionics adaptability to be fired from Sukhoi 30 MKI (Mark India), Mirage 2000 and MIG 29 and the Light Combat Aircraft.

Astra was earlier launched from the ground on May 9, 11 and 12, 2003.

It is developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad.

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