Indigenous Astra missile tested from Tejas fighter, even as IAF chief reviews jet project | India News

NEW DELHI: The indigenous Astra air-to-air missile was successfully tested from the home-grown Tejas fighter for the first time on Wednesday, even as the IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari reviewed the entire light combat aircraft programme ahead of deliveries of its upgraded version from next year onwards.
The Astra-1, which has a beyond visual range of 100km, was test-fired from the Tejas jet at an altitude of around 20,000-feet off the coast of Goa. “All the objectives of the test were met and it was a perfect text book launch,” a DRDO official said.
“The state-of-the-art Astra can engage and destroy highly manoeuvring supersonic aerial targets,” he added. Defence minister Rajnath Singh, in turn, said the launch would “significantly enhance the combat prowess” of Tejas and “reduce the dependency on imported weapons”.
The Astra-1, which flies over four times the speed of sound at Mach 4.5, is already under production by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics after the successful completion of its user trials from Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. The IAF has placed an initial order for 250 Astra-1 missiles, while DRDO is already developing an Astra-2 missile with a 160-km range, as was earlier reported by TOI.
ACM Chaudhari, in turn, described the Tejas LCA as the “flag-bearer” of the IAF’s efforts towards indigenisation of its aircraft fleet, while reviewing the project with top officials of DRDO, Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and others.
“Notwithstanding the project delays that were brought out during the course of the review, the IAF chief lauded the efforts of all stakeholders and emphasized on the need to incorporate the lessons learnt from the LCA programme into future indigenous Design & Developmental projects,” an officer said.
The IAF has so far inducted over 30 of the 40 Tejas Mark-1 ordered earlier, while the deliveries of the upgraded 73 Tejas Mark-1A jets and 10 trainers is slated to begin next year.
These 83 jets have to be delivered by HAL in the February 2024-February 2028 timeframe as per the Rs 46,898 crore contract inked in February 2021. Moreover, the Cabinet Committee on Security in August last year had cleared the development of a much more powerful and capable Tejas Mark-2 fighter at an overall cost of over Rs 9,000 crore, as was reported by TOI.
The IAF is currently grappling with just 31 fighter squadrons when at least 42 are required to tackle China and Pakistan. The induction plan includes 83 Tejas Mark-1A, 108 Tejas Mark-2, 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (to be manufactured in India with foreign collaboration) and finally 126 indigenous stealth fifth-generation advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA).

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