After integration issues with Israeli Python-5 on Tejas, IAF looks to equip Light Combat Aircraft Tejas with the air-to-air missile ASRAAM.
New Delhi: State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and European defence major MBDA are set to hold talks this week to arm the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas with ASRAAM, a heat-seeking close combat air-to-air missile.
Top defence sources said MBDA had been discussing the issue at multiple levels with the Indian Air Force, and formal talks with HAL will start now for the integration of the missile that will add to Tejas’s air-to-air combat prowess.
The development comes at a time when the IAF is thinking of standardising the missile across its fleet.
Talks for ASRAAM integration with Tejas come after integration issues cropped up with Python-5 missile of Israeli firm Rafael Defence.
Weighing 88 kg, ASRAAM is a Within Visual Range (WVR) Dominance weapon. It accepts target information via the aircraft sensors, such as the radar or helmet mounted sight but can also act as an autonomous infrared search and track system.
Currently, the IAF’s Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft are being equipped with the ASRAAM missile that has an operational range of over 25 km.
MBDA is also set to tell the HAL that the Beyond Visual Range Meteor missile cannot be integrated with the Tejas LCA because of the Israeli radar — HAL and IAF have chosen the Israeli Elta AESA radar for Tejas Mark 1A, said sources.
Sources added the ASRAAM missile is also being integrated with two Su-30 MKIs as a test project. Once successful, the IAF plans to equip its entire fleet of Su-30 MKI with the missile in phased manner.
The test firing of the missile from the Russian-origin aircraft is slated for later this year, sources said.
MBDA has remained tight lipped over the ASRAAM programme in India, but sources said they are willing to shift the final assembly line of the weapon system from Bolton in United Kingdom to the state-run Bharat Dynamics Ltd in Hyderabad.
Sources said this could be done under the offset obligations across contracts it signed in India, running into €1 billion.
MBDA is jointly held by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo.
MBDA was wrongly reported as a French defence major. The error is regretted.