On September 17, 2019, India announced that it had successfully conducted an Astra air-to-air missile test
Looking back, it can be seen that in the past 20 years, the Astra air-to-air missile has been successfully tested many times, but the mass production plan has been delayed time and time again. According to information on Indian media, the Astra missile is continuously improved and its functionality has been raised many times; there are no shortcomings, except being delayed in use.
Astra missiles have gone through many generations of development, military experts said. During the research process, many advanced technologies are constantly being applied, the latest missile versions can be compared with the most advanced air-to-air missiles in the world.
Essentially, the Astra is an all-weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile. It was first shown at the 1998 Indian Air Show and first tested in May 2003. The missile weighed 300 kg and the attack range was only 25-40 km. The first generation missile still had a lot of performance flaws that needed modification.
So since 2006, DRDO began to redesign the Astra missile, there have been major changes. The improved propulsion system was first applied and tested in 2008. However, the missile still had to be redesigned, due to several failed tests.
In December 2012, the prototype of the new test version was completed, but it was not until September 2017 that the test was successful. The Astra version, called MK-1, weighs 154 kg, is 3.57 meters long, 178 mm in diameter and has a range of 110 km.
Unfortunately, the MK-1 has not yet entered mass production, and the Indian Air Force did not appear to have any intention of purchasing a “homemade” missile; and DRDO continued to improve, first with the MK-2 version and then the MK-3.
The MK-2 version is under consideration for use with a liquid-fuel ramjet, solid-fuel ramjet and dual pulse solid rocket motor. First of all, don’t underestimate this technology, even the US admits that the dual-pulse motor developed for the AIM-120D has failed. India hopes to use this technology, to increase the missile range to more than 160 km. The related tests are expected to be conducted in 2022.
The MK-3 version will be equipped with a solid fuel ducted ramjet technology, with a maximum range of 350 km. Sources close to DRDO said the new engine has begun to undergo technical testing, but the completion time may be delayed by a few years, which is worth looking forward to.