India placed its first order for indigenous air to air missiles worth Rs. 2,971 crore. The move was taken to cut the dependency on Russia by giving its fighter jets a fighting edge that lacked during the Balakot air engagements with Pakistan.
The order was signed with Bharat Dynamics Limited for ASTRA MK-I Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Air to Air Missile (AAM) for an undisclosed number of missiles. They will be fitted in the Su 20 MKI fighter jets of the Indian Air Force and the naval MiG 29/KUB carrier-borne combat aircraft.
The Astra MK1 developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and outranges the current set of Russian-origin air-to-air missiles, which were used by the air force and were missing in the Balakot airstrikes in 2019.
The missiles developed by DRDO will have a range of over 100km allowing the air force more time to respond to threats from the other side of the border. In the future, these missiles are expected to gradually replace all Russian imports of long-range air-to-air missiles, and further variants are being designed that will extend their target range beyond 200 kilometers.