INDIA SEARCHES OVERSEAS FOR CRITICAL BVRAAM TECHNOLOGIES
By Bulbul Singh
09 Jan 08. Indian scientists are hunting overseas to acquire technology transfer to develop the Seeker Head technology and the Guidance Systems for the homegrown air to air Beyond Visual Range missile, Astra, so far a monopoly of select developed nations. The missile is indigenously designed and developed by state-owned defence research agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The Director of the Astra BVR Missile Project of DRDO Dr. S Gollakota last month visited Thales of France and Rafael of Israel in connection with procuring critical technologies for the Astra missile currently being developed by the state-owned missile laboratory, DRDL in Hyderabad.
The Seeker Head and guidance systems are critical components of the Astra missile which will provide capability with a range of over 80km in head-on mode and 20 km in tail-chase mode to intercept targets moving at Mach 1.4. Sources in the Indian defence ministry said, Gollakota negotiated the technology transfer for the Seeker Head technology from Thales and the guidance system technology from Rafael of Israel. India Is keen to copy the guidance system technology of Israel’s Python-5 missile for the Astra. Astra is a single stage, 3.8 meter long missile which uses solid fuel propellant.
Astra, once inducted, would be mounted on the Mirage 2000H, SU30 MKI, MiG 29, and Light Combat Aircraft (currently under development)with the Indian Air Force.
A test of the Astra missile is planned in March 2008 when the missile will be mounted on an aircraft. By October 2008 another test will be carried when the missile will actually be fired from the aircraft, said sources in DRDO. The coordinates of the target would be passed on to the Astra missile by the radar of the aircraft through a secure datalink system.
The missile was tested in March 2007 from India’s missile testing centre in state of Orissa but scientists were not happy with the guidance system, said DRDO sources. The global hunt for the Seeker Head and the Guidance system is a follow-up of the tests to complete the missile on schedule by 2010-11 even with help from overseas missile companies. This approach of looking overseas for help is contrary to the earlier policy of DRDO to stick to only homemade R&D even at the cost of delays.
DRDO sources indicated that in case more help overseas help will be needed in the development of Astra then it will be sought. No details are however available on which parts of the missile the DRDO is looking for overseas consultancy and help.