Israel’s Derby missile is the weapon of choice for India’s Tejas fighter. A contract will be signed by March with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd to supply the air-to-air missile system to be fitted on some 200 jets, said P.S. Subramanya, director of India’s Aeronautical Development Agency, which is developing the light combat aircraft.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has ordered 40 Tejas planes. The aircraft recently obtained restricted initial operational clearance, with a full clearance targeted for December 2012. While the IAF has expressed an interest for 100 of the Mk-II version of the fighter, the navy is looking for 60 of the naval versions, Subramanya said.
A key criterion for the full clearance is the integration of a so-called beyond-visual-range missile. Delivery of the missiles is, thus, expected in the second half of 2012.
Other elements of the clearance include an increase in the angle of attack from the current 20-22 degrees to about 24 degrees. The angle is the highest at which the aircraft can meet air flow without stalling.
India’s Sea Harrier jets carry Derby missiles. Fourteen of them were upgraded recently with the missile in a limited-upgrade programme.
The Python missile, closely related to the Derby, was also an option for the Tejas, Subramanya stated.
The Tejas Mk-I variant has obtained initial operational clearance. Mission capability will come with the integration of weapon systems that include the Derby missile. The Mk-II will be fitted with a more powerful engine than the first variant.
The Sea Harrier upgrade with the Derby missile was criticized by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) last year in a report, saying the navy zeroed in on the Derby without a proper open tender procurement process. During trials, the Derby did not perform at the required range, but was still accepted, the CAG said.
The decision to go with a foreign missile was made last year. The Defence Research and Development Organisation is also developing a similar missile called the Astra.
Subramanya said the Astra was doing well in ballistic trials from the ground, and in a couple of months it will be tested on the Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter, of which some 124 are in service with the IAF, which has plans to induct an additional 150 similar aircraft by 2015. “A new missile is always tested on a proven aircraft,” said Subramanya. The Astra is intended to have a range of about 80km.