22nd December 2012 By Hemant Kumar Rout - http://newindianexpress.com
India on Saturday successfully test-fired a reconfigured version of its beyond visual range (BVR) new generation air-to-air missile 'Astra' from the integrated test range (ITR) at Chandipur off the Odisha coast.
Defence sources said, the missile was fired from the launching complex – II of the ITR at about 3.30 pm. The missile successfully intercepted a pilotless target aircraft (PTA) – Lakshya, flown around 15 minutes prior to the launching of the missile, mid air. The test came a day after a similar trial conducted from the same test range.
ITR Director MVKV Prasad said the mission was successful as it validated all data as expected. “The missile was fired against a live pilotless target aircraft. The interception was done at an altitude of 4 km. All the mission objectives have been met,” he told ‘The New Indian Express’.
The trial was reportedly carried out to test the missile’s reconfigured guidance systems, avionics and the functioning of the communication in Radio Frequency. Entirely a complex missile Astra has been designed to intercept fast-moving aerial targets at supersonic speeds.
Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Astra is designed for an 80-km range in head-on mode and 20 km-range in tail-chase mode. As an anti-aircraft missile it can be fired after receiving a signal from the far away target through its onboard manoeuvres based on radio frequency.
“One of its versions having 90 to 110 km range can cruise at an altitude of 15 km, another having a range of 44 km can destroy a target at an altitude up to 30,000 ft while the third one with a range of 30 km is capable of hitting the target at sea level altitude,” said a defence scientist.
After the post mission analysis, a source informed that though the missile did not directly hit the PTA, but it destroyed the target through its onboard proximity fuse, which means the missile passed very close to the aircraft and hence the mission was accomplished.
Astra is a ‘state of the art’ being developed for the air force. The 3.8 metres long missile, which has launch weight about 154 kg, uses solid-fuel propellant and a 15 kg high-explosive warhead, activated by a proximity fuse.
Sources said there would be another test on Monday when the missile is expected to intercept a simulated electronic target, which will be followed by launches from various aerial platforms.
“After the developmental trials, the DRDO would go for aerial tests of the missile. Though it is an air-to-air missile, the tests on Friday and Saturday were conducted from specially built ground launchers,” Prasad said.
The launch was witnessed by Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and DRDO chief Vijay Kumar Saraswat, CC R&D (Missiles and Strategic Systems) Avinash Chander, DRDL Director AK Chakrabarti, Astra Program Director N Prabhakar and Project Director S Venugopal.