Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters belonging to the Indian Air Force (IAF) are likely to be re-armed with Israeli I-Derby air-to-air missiles within the next two years.
"We already have the older version of the missile as part of the SPYDER (Surface-to-Air Missile) system. Integration (with the IAF's Su-30s) is the next step," sources in the Indian Air Force told NDTV.
The IAF decided to procure Rafael's radar guided I-Derby ER having a range of 100km, because it is far superior to the Russian Vympel R-77 air-to-air missile which reportedly failed to intercept Pakistani missiles during February aerial skirmish.
The latest developments come after the fire-and-forget I-Derby ER missile featuring software-defined radar seeker and a dual-pulse solid rocket motor, was selected to be the primary AAM to arm the IAF’s indigenously designed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) following successful test-firings in July 2018.
An earlier version of the Derby, which can be configured as a surface-to-air missile, is also part of the IAF’s 18 Spyder-SR air-defence systems acquired from Rafael in 2008–09 for an estimated $1 billion.
The IAF is also looking at MBDA-manufactured Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), the first of which were acquired for its Jaguar fleet in 2014 for £250 million.
Once fully integrated, it will replace the R-73 short range air-to-air missile presently in use on the Sukhoi-30 fleet.
Simultaneously, the IAF is evaluating the indigenous Astra air-to-air missile for the Sukhoi-30. IAF sources told NDTV, ''The Astra is in development. We have ordered fifty (missiles) of the limited series production."
Ultimately, though, the air force wants an extended-range variant of the missile. ''It will take ten years to get the Astra Mk2 in our inventory," say sources, a reason why integration of the I-Derby is being seen as a priority.