India is now one step closer to making 350 km range Air To Air missile

SFDR Astra MK3 missile
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DRDO of India successfully flight-tests Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) technology off Odisha coast on April 8. The SFDR-based propulsion enables the missile to intercept aerial threats at very long range at supersonic speeds.

The performance was confirmed from the data captured by a number of range instruments like Telemetry, Radar, and Electro Optical Tracking Systems deployed by ITR. The SFDR has been developed by DRDL in collab with Research Centre Imarat + High Energy Materials Research Lab.

Fifth trial (FT) of SFDR
Fifth trial (FT) of SFDR

On 8th April the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) tested a complete solid fuel ducted ramjet (SFDR) propulsion system from a ground based launcher, blasting a missile system to a high altitude and achieving speeds in excess of Mach 3. Unlike the Astra mk1, which rides on a smokeless solid fuel rocket motor, SFDR technology is missile propulsion system that includes a thrust modulated ducted rocket with a reduced smoke nozzle-less missile booster. The thrust modulation in the system is achieved using a hot gas flow controller. The system utilises a solid fuelled air-breathing ramjet engine.

It is an extremely long-range missile with a projected range of 350 km. The missile can travel at the speed of 4.5 Mach.

The development of SFDR technology will enable India to make its own long-range air-to-air missile, which could mirror the capabilities of the best missiles in this class, like MBDA’s Meteor, which the Indian Air Force uses on its Rafale jets.

The last known test of the technology was conducted in December 2021. The test, DRDO said back then, helped prove many technologies and sub-systems, including the ground booster motor and nozzle-less motor. However if you look the text written on missile its FT-05 its it was 5th flight trials of SFDR.

India has been working on the Mark-II version of home grown Astra air-to-air missile, which will have a range of around 160 kilometres. The SFDR propulsion system, which was also tested in 2019, is critical for the missile’s performance in the terminal phase of its flight towards the target.

With SFDR tech now up and rolling, the Indian Air Force will basically get to craft its air-to-air missile payloads around three systems in the medium term: the MBDA ASRAAM for close combat heat-seeking duties, the Astra for beyond visual range, and the Meteor+SFDR at the higher end. Theoretically, the SFDR weapon will be deployable across the IAF’s fleet, from the LCA Tejas to MiG-29s and Su-30s. But whether the missile will be a fit on the Rafale remains to be seen. Either way, the success of the program could potentially satiate the Indian Air Force’s need for a higher performance beyond visual range missiles with fleet-wide integration.

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