HomeAatmanirbhar BharatCan India Defeat China and Pakistan’s Air-to-Air Missiles?

Can India Defeat China and Pakistan’s Air-to-Air Missiles?

Can India Defeat China and Pakistan’s Air-to-Air Missiles?
An Indian Air Force pilot checking a Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter equipped with indigenous Astra Mk-1 Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (File Photo)

by Girish Linganna

In June, India took an important step toward self-reliance by placing an order for the Astra Mk-1 beyond visual range (BVR) missile. BVR missiles can engage targets beyond a pilot’s visual range, which is typically about thirty-seven kilometers. The Astra MK-1 has a range of 100 kilometers and a ceiling of twenty kilometers. It has satisfied all the consumers who intend to integrate them into their aircraft, including the Indian HAL Tejas multirole fighter. However, will this new capability give India an edge over Pakistan and China?

A Tall Order

Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets are armed with U.S. AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM). It is a fire-and-forget active transmit-receive radar guidance weapon with a range of over 100 kilometers capable of traveling at Mach 4 speed. In retaliation to the 2019 Balakot airstrike, Pakistan launched Operation Swift Retort where it fired the AIM-120 AMRAAM at six locations in Jammu and Kashmir.


China’s sights are set on matching U.S. air dominance and their innovations are primarily motivated to achieve comparable, if not superior, aerial warfighting capabilities against the United States. It created the PL-15 missile, an active radar-homing BVR weapon with a 300-kilometer range capable of reaching Mach 4.5. For reference, missiles that can achieve speeds of Mach 5 and above qualify as hypersonic.

pl 15 image02

To counter such advanced adversaries, it is not enough for India to demonstrate indigenization. There must be a fighting chance with the proper defence forces. Comparing military capabilities to each other in isolation is often moot because real combat involves a variety of factors, such as other equipment and tactics. When Chinese aircraft penetrate Taiwanese airspace, they do not rely solely on their speed and manoeuvrability but also on electronic measures to render Taiwanese radars useless. If one combines a suite of electronic warfare with BVR missiles, the target is a sitting duck.

India’s Response To Pakistan And China

The Astra missiles were first tested in 2003 as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Astra MK-1 is an advanced BVR missile that can be launched agnostic to the target’s relative position. It includes advanced electronic countermeasures (ECM), which improve its target tracking capability even in an environment with electronic jammers. It can engage multiple targets and now sports an indigenous RF seeker-based active radar instead of semi-active radar.

Photo 1577247317511
Astra Mk-1 BVRAAM CGI by Kuntal Biswas

The pilot has the option of using “Lock on before Launch” (LOBL) or “Lock on after Launch” (LOAL), allowing the fighter jet to shoot and scoot. It is meant to engage an enemy that fights back. Hence, while most aircraft use up to 9 G forces to out manoeuvre missiles, the Astra Mk-1 uses 30 Gs to ensure the endgame objective of an engagement.

The all-weather missile has a range of 100 kilometers and travels at a near hypersonic speed of Mach 4.5. Although its fifteen-kilogram warhead is smaller than the eighteen and twenty-kilogram warheads of the AIM-120 and PL-15, respectively, it has a demonstrated ability to score a direct hit from maximum range.

Potency Potential

Recent news reports indicate that the Astra MK-2 and MK-3 models are set to be tested in 2023 and 2024, respectively. The Mk-2 variant is said to be an incremental upgrade of the Astra MK-1 with a 160-kilometer range. It will also have a dual-pulse solid-fuel rocket motor used by the industry standard, Meteor missile, to achieve greater operational range.

Astra Mk-2 BVRAAM (Above) and SFDR based Astra Mk-3 BVRAAM (Bottom) CGI by Kuntal Biswas

The Astra Mk-3 is being developed along with Russia and will most likely have the new Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SDFR) for a range of 350 kilometers. The Astra Mk-3 will afford India a credible response to the Chinese PL-15 and other world-class BVR missiles.

The SDFR was tested in 2019 and 2021 and it is used in the Meteor BVR air-to-air missile (AAM) to boost energy before engagement. This continuous thrust gives it the largest No-Escape Zone at sixty kilometers. The American AIM-120 uses a rocket motor that achieves its kinetic peak first before bleeding energy as it progresses toward its target. This is also the case with the Astra Mk-1.

However, both the MK-2 and MK-3 will have an SDFR to ensure maximum kinetic energy is sustained after launch. This will ensure that the target is unable to escape the missile within a certain distance. The AIM-120 has a smaller No-Escape Zone than the PL-15, comparable to the Meteor missile.

As India continues to make strides in missile technology, Pakistan and China should know that they will see a dominant BVR missile in New Delhi’s arsenal soon.

Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Aatmanirbhar Bharat


DRDO: Made in India Netra, Pinaka Systems attract European, Southeast Asian interest

At the Eurosatory 2024 Defence Show in Paris, India's indigenous military technologies, including the Netra airborne early warning and control aircraft and the Pinaka...

Indian Navy: Messe Stuttgart India, Indian Navy collaborate to modernise pan-India logistics infrastructure

Global exhibitor Messe Stuttgart India on Wednesday said it has collaborated with the Indian Navy to revolutionize logistics infrastructure across the nation. The initiative...

AMCA 5th Generation Stealth Fighter Updates

AMCA to be integrated with sophisticated indigenous Distributed Aperture System (DAS) that making it a formidable air asset for the Indian Air Force

Source : IgMp Bureau India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is on the brink of a revolutionary transformation with the integration of a sophisticated Distributed...

AMCA to incorporate the best features of both 5th and 6th Generation fighters: ADA sources

Source : IgMp Bureau India's strides toward indigenous air dominance receive a substantial boost with the green signal for the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)...

Most Popular

Recent Comments

Archive Months


Russia: Russia proposes UN resolution on banning weapons in space, after vetoing similar UN-Japan draft

Russia has circulated a U.N. resolution calling on all countries to take urgent action to prevent putting weapons in outer space "for all time"...

ADA is expected to finalise current New Design for the TEDBF Fighter Jet

  The Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) was shown off at Aero India 2023 by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). This version of the...

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to visit the United States next week amid Chinese aggression

Source : Asian News International (ANI) Washington : Amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is set to visit New York...

Kim Jong Un stops to see a fighter jet factory as Russia and North Korea are warned off arms deals

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || ).push(); North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stopped in a far eastern Russian city Friday to...
error: Content is protected !!