In early June, the Defence Ministry of India awarded a ballistics contract worth $4244.4 million. The contract is going to Bharat Dymanics Limited—which is run by the state—and is aimed at supplying locally-developed Astra MK-I air-to-air missiles. India hopes this will lay a new foundation for the country’s ability to build their own beyond-visual-range weapons, instead of buying them from foreign suppliers.
India’s Defence Ministry notes that development can begin because the transfer of technology—and its associated systems—from the government agency to the private company is now complete. As of the date of this publication, production on the Astra MK-I will have already begun at Bharat Dynamics.
The specifics of the contract detail that Bharat Dynamics will supply approximately 400 Astra MK-I missiles, and all equipment associated with them. Also, the contract gives a timeline for fulfilling this order at four years, at which time they hope to outfit Air Force and Navy vessels like the Su-30MKI, the LCA-MK, and the MiG-29K aircraft.
The Astra MK-I is a single-stage, solid-fuel missile that measures 3.8 meters in length (12.47 feet). It has a weight of 160 kg (352.74 lbs). Also, the missile can carry various warhead configurations with a total weight of 15 kg.
According to India’s ministry of defense, the new missile is intended to reduce their dependence on foreign ballistics like the R-77 from Russia and France’s MICA. In a statement, the ministry said, “The project essentially embodies the spirit of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ [Self-Reliant India] and will help facilitate the country’s journey towards self-reliance on air-to-air missiles.”
The new missiles will be designed locally and developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation. So far, the weaponry has been successfully completed a handful of tests with Air Force Su-30MKI fighter jets, and in many different configurations. Furthermore, the missile has a range of more than 100 kilometers and has recently been equipped with a fully indigenous, radio-frequency-based terminal guidance system.
On their website, the Defence Research and Development Laboratory explains that the Astra weapon “is designed to engage and destroy highly maneuvering supersonic aircraft.” Furthermore, the missile will be able to function in any type of weather and can operate both day and night.