Astra is an indigenously developed all weather BEYOND VISUAL RANGE Air To Air missilewhich is developed by DRDO. It features active radar homing and is able to engage targets both at short and long ranges. It is the first BVR missile made by India and reduce the dependence on Indian Air Force on foreign nations such as Russia & Israel for BVR missiles which costed a lot because of lack of cheaper indigenous missiles.
Astra 1 is capable of engaging targets at distance of upto 20 kms IN TAIL CHASE and targets at range of upto 60 to 80 kms IN HEAD ON CHASE. It also has smokeless propulsion which is another plus point of this indigenous bvr.
The warhead is a 15 kg HE (high-explosive) which is activated by a proximity fuse which means the missile need not collide head on with the target and even if target tries to dodge missile at last sec still the missile will explode without any direct contact with target. The missile's maximum speed is Mach 4.5+ & is able to do manoeuvres of 40 G while engaging target.
Earlier this missile was supposed to arm IAF JAGUARS, MIRRAGE etc but now it is known that it will be used in SU 30 MKI which is India's Frontline Fighter & also in HAL TEJAS
and maybe even in Rafale fighters which India acquired RAFALE DEAL 2016.
The missile was tested under extreme conditions which a bvr missile has to and can possibly have to go through during combat & in heavy electronic counter measures environment and it satisfied all the stringent requirements of the Indian Air Force.
Astra also has a BUDDY MODE lauch system along with autonomous system which means that if the missile cant be locked on target by the jet which carries it still it can be fired from that jet and another nearby friendly aircraft can update the missile to the correct path and engage the target.
The missile has also been tested for both day and night capability and also for all weather capability.
On 18 March 2016,the missile was test fired for the first time in public during the exercise Iron Fist 2016 using a SU 30 MKI aircraft.
This indigenous bvr will not only provide Indian Airforce with more teeth but will also reduce it's dependence on other nations for weapons as till now India had to purchase expensive BVR missiles from other nations which cost a lot more than what Astra will.
Also DRDO is working on ASTRA MK 2 which will have extended range (upto 35 kms tail chase and 110kms on head on chase) & preparations are beind done to start production of Astra soon.