PC : Guarding India

On 19 August 2020, the Indian Air Force achieved a historic feat when it fired French MICA missile from Russian Su-30MKI fighter. This made Indian Air Force (IAF) the first Air Force in the world that fired western missiles from Russian Su-30 fighter. Team Guarding India brings you an exclusive story on this marvelous feat achieved by Indian Air Force.

Russian and Western fighters are designed with different philosophies as Russian fighters like Su-30 MKI and MiG-29, are designed with maneuverability in mind while western fighters like Mirage 2000 and F-35, rely on superior radars and missiles. Therefore, western missiles are most lethal, and Russian fighter can boast the capability to dodge any missile.

This concept was validated when on 27 February 2019, a pair of Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKIs not only dodged AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles fired by Pakistani F-16s without firing a single missile but also forced Pakistani fighters to turn away. It was a lucky day for Pakistan Air force as Indian Su-30 MKIs were not allowed to cross international borders and thus could not fire their missiles on F-16s which by then had no missiles left. However, the impact of Indian missiles was felt by Pakistan Air Force when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman flying a MiG-21 Bison shot down Pakistani F-16 fighter.

A Su-30MKI test fires an indigenously designed and developed Astra beyond visual range missile.
A Su-30MKI test fires an indigenously designed and developed Astra beyond visual range missile. | PC : India Today Article

However, that day Indian Air Force realized that its Sukhoi-30 MKIs need a missile that can kill the enemy even when the pilot is busy dodging enemy missiles. Thus, IAF decided that to equip Su-30 MKIs with French fire and forget MICA missiles.

MICA is all-weather, fire-and-forget air to air missile that has can target any enemy plane between 500 meters to 80 kilometers. This missile flies at Mach 4 which is faster than any plane in the world and has a massive amount of kinetic energy for killing its target. There are two versions of MICA missile, MICA RF that uses active radar homing guidance and MICA IR which uses infra-red guidance. Both versions are designed to identify the correct aircraft signature even when enemy fighter deploys chaff and flares that can fool ordinary air to air missiles.

French Mica Missile
French MICA Missile | PC: MBDA / Guarding India

MICA missile has lock-on after launch (LOAL) capability which means a pilot can fire the missile first and assign the target later, a capability that would have come handy against Pakistani F-16s as it would have allowed IAF to shoot down more Pakistani fighters.

The mounting of European missile on Russian planes requires sorting out two different command modules by making one of a kind interface wherein European missile seekers can accept targeting data from Russian radars. To date, only Israel could do such stuff, however, it seems that now DRDO has mastered this technology too. The MICA is the first European missile to be integrated on Su-30MKI that has made it far deadlier air dominance fighter and we can expect more missile-like short-range ASRAAM or long-range Meteor depending upon permission from European missile manufacturers.

Team Guarding India expects that the Indian Air Force will keep on updating Su-30 MKIs with more cutting-edge missiles besides going in for a more comprehensive Super Sukhoi upgrade that is in pipeline.