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By Bulbul Singh

26 Apr 11. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has entered the global market to procure Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air(BVRAAM) missiles worth over $200 million. Currently the IAF is using BVRAAM missiles including Derby and Python missiles from Israel.

The IAF is keen to buy BVRAAM missiles from the open market on a competitive basis, thus, missiles from western sources will be acquired. The decision to enter the global market follows a decision by the Indian Air Force not to buy advanced missiles sole-sourced from Israel or Russia. Besides, the indigenous Astra BVRAAM missile has yet to be inducted in the Indian Air Force. Astra is aimed to intercept targets moving at speeds up to Mach 1.4.

The missile is an advanced single stage, 3.8 meter long BVRAAM which uses solid fuel propellant, designed for a range of over 80km in head-on mode and 20km in tail-chase mode. Once inducted, Astra would be mounted on Mirage 2000H, SU30 MKI, MiG 29 and LCA, currently under development, with the IAF. Though Astra has been tested twice, the schedule of its induction is still not clear, it has yet to be tested on the Sukhoi-30MKI.

The IAF has for long enjoyed an edge over Pakistan due to its inventory of BVRAAMs and defence planners want to maintain this edge, by adding additional new generation missiles.

Other missiles being used by the IAF include the Russian-made R-27 and R-77 medium-to-long-range missiles which are mounted on the MiG-29, and MiG-21 and Su 30MKI IAF aircraft.

The IAF needs a variety of missiles, including BVRAAM missiles for its aircraft, including Mirage 2000H, SU-30MKI, MiG29 and Jaguar aircraft.

The BVRAAM requirement came to light in early 2003, when IAF weaponry could not match that of the French during joint air exercises in India.

In 2009, India‚Äôs Comptroller General’s Report raised serious questions on the usability of the R-77 BVRAAMs. The report noted that nearly half the missiles tested either did not home in on targets during evaluations or failed ground tests because they were ageing at the end of their shelf life.

India has been procuring these missiles from Russia since 1996 and ordered more than 2,000 missiles after the Kargil conflict in 1999.

Defence planners are working to equip the front-line combat fleet, especially that of the Air Force, with new signal jammers, electronic warfare equipment, BVRAAM missiles and smart ammunition.

With the induction of three Phalcon airborne early warning and control aircraft IAF would get the capability to conduct and control airborne operations up to 400km inside hostile airspace and is keen to use these capabilities more effectively by acquiring longer range BVRAAMs.

Unable to acquire more BVRAAMs from the open market, the IAF was giving repeat orders to Rafael of Israel to supply additional Python-4 and Python-5 missiles

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