According to unconfirmed reports trails of Astra Mk2 missile are almost completed and limited series production has started. Integration of Astra missiles on Indian Navy’s MiG-29K has also started, reports Next Generation Weapons Technology.
Going by the reports, the Astra Mk2 missile will come with conventional dual pulse rocket motor but with improved grain quality as it is a solid fuel powered missile. Secondly the missile will be longer as a result of which more quantity of fuel can be loaded which will result in improved burn time and will correspondingly increase its range. Combined this with better quality solid propellant the Astra air-to-air missile should match or even exceed AIM-120D AMRAAM & PL-15 missiles. As per some reports in media, DRDO is targeting for a range between 160km to 180 km.
Astra Mk2 is an upgraded version of Astra Mk1. The Mk2 has better range, uses a dual pulse rocket motor and an AESA seeker which makes it a very capable BVR missile which India needs urgently.
Astra Mk2 air-to-air missile shares many features from its predecessor such as aerodynamics, design, smokeless propulsion and Ku band AESA seeker, so its development process has been very fast as it is using the same successful tried and tested design of the Astra Mk1.
The Astra Mk2 may be inducted into the Indian Air Force service by end of 2023 or by Q1 of 2024 as every system from design, body, dual pulse rocket motor, actuators, various sensors, warhead, instruments and Ku band AESA seeker has been validated and tested.
It will also come with improved high angle off bore-sight capability, improved ECCM system, will support two way datalink (first for Indian missile) & an AESA radar (unconfirmed reports) head instead of Ku band seeker which will improve the first kill probability by a significant margin.
India has already commissioned the Astra Mk1 which is better than PL-12 used by Pakistan and China. Astra Mk1 has range of 110 km and a maximum speed of Mach 4.5 compared to PL-15’s range of 100 km and max speed of Mach 4. Also PL-15 is 26 kg heavier than the Astra Mk1.
Recently a video was released showing Astra Mk2 missile being launched from ejector launcher of Su-30MKI. Launching missile from ejector launcher is a much more advanced method compared to launching from rail launcher.