How would you compare India’s Astra missile with Europe’s Meteor missile?
Astra is the very 1st Air-to-Air missile make in India. The seeker is not Indian, but pretty much most of all the other building blocks are Indian. The Indian engineers & scientists, as one can imagine, had to go through a very steep learning curve to bring the Astra missile to fruition. So the missile’s capabilities might seem like a mirror of some of the existing missiles. A lot of critical technologies related to propulsion, guidance and control surface actuation were perfected. As a result, India will soon have a home-cooked BVR munition at a steep discount and custom made to the Air force’s requirements, replacing for most part, the R-77 and the Matra Super-530D.
THE MAIN PURPOSE OF ASTRA IS TO REPLACE THE R77 FROM IAF. BEING A FIFTH GENERATION MISSILE , IT WOULD PROVIDE TRUE BEYOND VISUAL RANGE CAPABILITY WITH GREATER STRATEGIC DEPTH FOR THE INDIAN AIR FORCE. BEING SMOKE FREE AND HAVING TWO WAY DATA LINK IT PROVIDES VERY LESS CHANCES TO ENEMY TO BE ALERT ABOUT IT.
DRDO started developing the beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) to arm the Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000H, MiG-29, Sea Harrier, Su-30MKI, MiG-21 Bison and HAL Tejas fighter aircraft.
The maximum range of Astra is 110 km in head-on chase and 20 km in tail chase. The missile could be launched from different altitudes – it can cover 110 km when launched from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when fired from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when the altitude is sea level. The missile can reportedly undertake 40 g turns close to sea level, when attacking a maneuvering target.The Mark 2 version of Astra will have a maximum range of 150 km and tail chase range of up to 35 km, and will feature shorter fins than the original Mark 1 design.
The Meteor is in a completely different league. MBDA has built a worthy missile befitting its long and illustrious legacy of building precision guided munitions. The biggest showpiece technology on the Meteor is the miniature solid fueled ramjet engine. A ramjet propelled missile has sustained(And throttlable) thrust under its disposal longer than the standard solid rocket motor propelled missile.
With a ‘vanilla’ BVR missile (every other missile in the market with a standard solid rocket motor), there is a ‘burn time’ (on avg abt 25 secs) which provides the missile all the thrust it would possibly need to reach its target. After this initial burn, the missile bleeds energy as it heads to the target. The missile bleeds energy more rapidly if it has to turn hard. If the target starts maneuvering hard, or turns tail and makes a run for it, there is a chance the missile will fall short of its target.
With a throttlable ramjet, the missile can throttle down the thrust during the ‘coasting’ phase and preserve some ‘juice’ for the end game chase. Another option available for missile designers is to use a ‘dual pulse’ rocket motor (similar to the rocket motor on the Barak-8), which kicks starts a second rocket motor which provides thrust for the end game chase.
Astra mk2 which will begin testing in the upcoming years, experience with mk1 will come in handy and will boost in meeting the timeline of mk2. Astra mk2 will be using dual pulse rocket motor(cheap alternative of ramjet) which will boost it range to 125km if launched from 12km altitude and will gradually increase the NEZ (no escape zone) of the missile. Astra will be the mainstay of Indian airforce and Navy A2A missile arsenal in the future. Currently about 50 Astra missiles have entered in the initial production will be handed over to the airforce for some more testings, and will be inducted after the all the tests are done and bugs are sorted out. It is also said that mk2 may feature 3D thrust vectoring capability as it won’t have those mid body control surfaces.
Desi Meteor SFDR
Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet tactical Air launched Missile is a new breed of an Air-to-Air missile which India has been jointly developing with good friend Russia. SFDR aka Astra-2 is India’s first at Next generation beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) which will incorporate booster-ram jet sustainer propulsion system, which will propel new missile in the sameclass as MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.
The missile flew in its intended trajectory at a speed of Mach 3 (thrice the speed of sound) and performed as expected perfectly validating the new indigenous technology. “It was a booster phase test of the missile and the mission was a major milestone for the strategic missile
SFDR BVRAAM Will help in maintaining the Air supremacy against Pakistan by rendering their Air Power obsolete but also help IAF to achieve parity with PLAAF against their new unknown Long range Air to Air Missile .
SFDR stunning performance will be achieved through its unique ramjet propulsion system – solid fuel, variable flow, ducted rocket advanced flight control system will give it extra reach there by allowing it to engage targets at very long ranges. This ‘ramjet’ motor provides the missile with thrust all the way to target intercept, providing the largest No-Escape Zone of any air-to-air missile.
Maturing of DRDO SFDR missile and its variants is still some years away with Captive Flight Trials (CFTs) hopefully at the end of 2018. Final SFDR Products could differ from the specs provided. The SFDR is indeed a high priority project for DRDO and future requirement for Indian Armed Forces w.r.t evolving threats of India’s unpredictable & unstable neighbors having no respect for India’s sovereignty. The future of missile warfare indeed belongs to air-breathing engines like ramjet, scramjet, shcramjet and pulse detonation engine.
The Ramjet powered SFDR is being readied for ground testing. And just hope all goes well with this one and joins the IAF Arsenal in the future.