DRDO Integrates India’s LCA Tejas With Most Powerful, Israeli, 5th-Gen, Python-5 AAM Missiles

In a landmark achievement for India’s homegrown LCA Tejas, the DRDO has successfully integrated Israeli 5th-gen Python-5 air-to-air missiles with the aircraft.

India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced this in a tweet, “Tejas, India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, added the 5th generation Python-5 Air-to-Air Missile (AAM) in its weapons capability yesterday, 27th April 2021.”

“Trials were also aimed to validate enhanced capability of already integrated Derby Beyond Visual Range (BVR) AAM,” the tweet read.

The development will ensure the versatility of armament for the Tejas, which includes Russian, Israeli, European, and indigenous munitions. This is in sync with Air Marshal R. Nambiar’s remarks about the “western philosophy” of developing the Tejas during an interview with LiveFist.

The Indian Air Force, having a wide variety of aircraft in service, suffered from the logistical issue of having specific weapons for specific fighter jets. For example, the Jaguar strike aircraft, the Mirage-2000, and the Rafale cannot be equipped with the Russian missiles available for use on the Su-30MKIs, the MiG-29UPGs, and the MiG-21.

The IAF had to go through a variety of diplomatic maneuvers to get permissions and licensing requirements to integrate foreign avionics with its aircraft.

The Python-5 would eventually be the replacement for older Russian R-73 missiles that features a conventional infrared seeker.

This problem is mitigated with the development of a homegrown fighter aircraft, which is capable of carrying virtually the entire range of IAF’s weapons, making it a lot easier for logistics and field commanders to make better use of their equipment.

The Python-5 is the latest in its family and is combat-tested over the skies of Lebanon, where it made its operational debut by shooting down two Iranian-made Ababil UAVs used by Hezbollah.

It is currently the most capable air-to-air missile in Israel’s inventory and one of the most advanced AAMs in the world. As a beyond-visual-range missile, it is capable of “lock-on after launch” (LOAL) and has full-sphere/all-direction (including rearward) attack ability.

The missile features an advanced electro-optical and image infrared homing seeker, which scans the target area for hostile aircraft, then locks-on for the terminal chase.

With a total of eighteen control surfaces and careful design, the resulting missile is supposed to be as maneuverable as any other air-to-air missiles with thrust vectoring nozzles.

Moreover, according to the DRDO tweet, the Derby beyond visual range air-to-air missile is also being tested to validate its enhanced capability. According to some experts, this is also an offshoot of the Python family of missiles, as the Derby shares considerable commonality with Python-4 with an active radar seeker.

A newer extended-range variant of the Derby, called the I-Derby ER, is being developed. In 2019, it was reported that India was planning to arm its Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters with I-Derby ER missiles to replace its R-77 missiles.