The latest weapon in the missile programme, the air-to-air astra, will be ready for trials from June this year, a senior Defence Research and Development Laboratory official said today.
Sanctioned three months ago, astra, to form part of the arsenal of the indigenous light combat aircraft, Tejas, would have at least three launches this year and its peak development programme would be around 2006-07, the DRDL (Hyderabad) director, Dr Prahlad told UNI in an interview here.
Dr Prahlada, who would be delivering a lecture on ‘the Missile roadmap of India’ at the Aero India 2005 international seminar here, said in all 50 launchers and user trials would be conducted before astra could be readied for deployment. There was every possibility of the launches getting curtailed to around 35 or 40, if all the parameters were met early.
He said the pace of development of astra would match the LCA programme so that the weapon was ready to be fitted to the aircraft in the 2010-11 timeframe.
On the supersonic cruise missile Brahmos, taken up as a joint venture with Russia, Dr Prahlada, an outstanding scientist, said a few countries had shown interest in purchasing the missile. However, they were waiting for the Indian Navy to make the first buy and fit it in their vessel.
The missile had been exhibited in various air shows, including Malaysia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Russia and Chile. Heads of defence units of some countries had already made request for buying the missile. Dr Prahlada said under the joint venture agreement with Russia, the consent of either countries need to be taken before selling the missile to a third country. Already the two countries have come out with a list of acceptable countries. Even the United States did not have such a missile, he informed.
“We are waiting for the navy to come out with the first order. It is expected to come in 2005,” he said, adding that the first missile would be rolled out 18 months after the order was placed. The cost of each missile was expected to range from Rs 15 crore to Rs 18 crore.
The navy had asked for another test of the missile to prove its short range capability, he added.
Dr Prahlada said but for the Russian joint venture it could have taken more than 12 years to come out with a missile like Brahmos which had a 300 km range and weighed three tonne. The Russians had nearly completed 80 per cent of the job with the engine and “we coupled it with our missile and guidance technology”.
All the eight trials conducted so far had been successful and this had surprised even the Russians as such a success rate was unheard of in their country.
He said that the DRDL was waiting for acceptance from the Indian air force to develop an air version of Brahmos whose water and land trials had been completed. The fighter aircraft need to be re-modified so that it could be fitted with the missile. Air Force version would weigh about 1.5 tonne, he added.