INDIA TO FASTRACK AIR-TO-AIR MISSILE PROCUREMENT AS RUSSIAN MISSILES FOUND FAULTY
By Bulbul Singh
03 Sep 09. In a major policy decision, the Indian government has decided to phase out the majority of Russian air-to-air missiles (AAM)and give repeat orders to existing vendors from Israel and purchase more missiles from overseas market.
The move follows reports of a faulty Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile (BVRAM) bought from Russia, and induction of a new generation of AAMs by Pakistan. Besides, China and Pakistan are jointly working to produce new generation AAMs. India’s own home-grown AAM Astra missile program is behind schedule; the first Astra AAM will be inducted not earlier then 2012.
Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has also demanded the induction of new generation AAMs in view of the falling fighter aircraft fleet strength so that they have a first-hit edge over Pakistan. The Indian Air Force wants AAMs to target the enemy aircraft in visual range.
Sources in the Indian Air Force said, “The bulk of the BVRAMs bought from Russia for SU-30, MiG–29 and MiG–21 aircraft have technical problems and they do not home in on the targets effectively.”
India is currently facing problems with the R-77 and R-73 AAMs bought from Russia. The Indian Air Force ordered 2000 R-77 AAMs from Russia in 2006. Sources said, ”Most of these missiles are not efficient due to their technical problems. Sources in the Indian Air Force said, ”Though the range of the R-77 missile was 90 kilometers on evaluation, these missiles failed to meet the requirements and specifications claimed by the Russians.”
The Indian Air Force spends around $300 million annually on AAMs.
A defence ministry official said,” Repeat orders are being given to Rafael of Israel for varieties of Python AAMs to fill the gap in the missile inventory.” In addition, the Indian Air Force wants to procure the Python-5 from Rafael, an order which has yet to be cleared.
In addition, the Indian Air Force is also procuring Derby BVRAMs along with Python-5s for the $1.8 billion Mirage upgrade program.
India has also floated a global tender to buy short range close air-to-air Close Combat Missiles (CCM) along with Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) and associated equipment for the Indian Air Force Jaguar fleet. The total requirement is for 384 CCMs, 130 HMDs and 226 launchers and associated equipment. The bids have been sent to MBDA of France, Rafael of Israel, Diehl Defence of Germany, and Rosoboronoexport of Russia.
The CCM is required for the Jaguar and the missile will be launched from over-wing pylons. The missile will be integrated with the aircraft radar and HMD to enable target detection, designation and launch to exploit the full kill zone of the missile. The CCM will have Fire-and-Forget capability and advanced ECCM features.
Meanwhile, more trials are planned for the home-grown Astra AAM, which will be done from SU-30MKMI aircraft.
The Astra is expected to be inducted in 2012 enabling India to become a member of a select group of nations to have such a technology. Only US, France, Russia and China have so far produced such advance missiles, which enables fighter pilots to lock-on and shoot down enemy aircraft almost 90-120 km away.
Astra is designed to intercept the target at mach 1.2 to 1.4 speed. It has been designed to engage multiple targets at ranges of up to 80 kilometers and flying at altitudes between sea level to 20,000 meters.