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India Awards First Indigenous BVR Air-to-Air Missile Contract

The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded Bharat Dynamics Limited an estimated $382 million contract to supply Astra MK-I air-to-air missiles.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation-developed missile is the country’s first indigenous Beyond Visual Range (BVR) (over 37 kilometer/23 miles) air-to-air missile.

The MoD stated that integration of the Astra on Indian Air Force aircraft will provide them with a standoff range of 110 kilometers (68 miles) to take out adversary fighter jets without exposure to air defenses.

Cheaper Than Foreign Missiles

Indian Air Force (IAF) jets currently rely on the Russian R 73 and R 77 and French Mica and Meteor BVR missiles.

IAF Rafales are outfitted with the Meteor missile, which has a range of 150 kilometers (93 miles) but comes at the steep price of Rs 25 crore ($3.2 million) per unit.

The service reportedly dropped a plan to integrate the missile on other IAF fighters due to its high cost.

The Astra MK-I, in comparison, costs Rs 7-8 crore ($1 million) per unit, providing a cheaper alternative. 

The local production of a BVR missile will reduce India’s dependency on foreign imports of such missiles, the MoD observed.

Astra-2 Test Soon

The IAF has completed Astra trials and integrated it with the Su 30 MK-I fighter aircraft. The missile will be integrated onto other aircraft such as the IAF Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) and the Indian Navy’s MiG 29K in phases.

The contract reportedly covers 200 missiles.

The Indian defense establishment is reportedly working on testing the next version of the missile, the Astra MK-II, within a month. The Astra-II will have a range of 160 kilometers (99 miles).

Aerospace Technology Development 

The Defence Research and Development Organisation, meanwhile, has transferred the missile and associated system technology to Bharat Dynamics Limited, and production has already begun.

The contract promises to kick start the development of missile “infrastructure and testing facilities” at Bharat Dynamics Limited along with opening up “opportunities…in aerospace technology for a period of at least 25 years.”

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