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What Metor Capability Means for India

Accurate strike capability against both fast, moving targets, and small, unmanned vehicles, that is MBDA-developed Meteor long range missile for you. The missile will be considered a game-changer for the Indian Air Force for a long time to come. Known as the best missile of its type, Meteor has become an indispensable part of the ongoing Indian Multi-role Fighter Programme (MRFA) and continues to generate interest around the world.

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Meteor BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile) provides an operational range of up to 120kms, and currently has the largest No-escape Zone (NEZ) among air-to-air missiles. This means that the missile leaves very little chance for any agile target to escape once tracked. According to former Indian Air Force chief A.Y. Tipnis, the NEZ of the Meteor is thrice that of the current AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.

Meteor has supersonic jet engine (known as ramjet) as opposed to rocket engines seen in heavy weight missiles such as The Phoenix, R-33 and AMRAAM. The unique ramjet system allows the engine to be throttled back in order to save fuel, while the missile glides at the speed of up to mach 4. Unlike the rocket-powered-engine missiles, Meteor saves up enough energy to make its critical attack while at its highest energy state. This gives it an edge while engaging highly agile targets. Furthermore, the two-way data link capability of Meteor allows the fighter to target and re-target the missile even after it has been launched, making it almost impossible for the pilot to miss a hit.

Meteor on the Gripen fighter

Gripen was the first test bed aircraft for the Meteor and as such, considered the perfect aircraft for missiles of its calibre to be tested on. In 2018, Saab successfully completed a test flight for the Meteor on Gripen E (designated 39-8) for the first time, five years after the missile was first tested on the Gripen C platform. 80 percent of the Meteor firing tests have taken place on Gripen ever since.

Saab, in its offering to India, maintains an all-inclusive fighter package that will meet IAF’s requirements for a fraction of the cost. “Besides meteor, heat-seeking missiles such as the IRIS-T, A-Darter, Python 4/5, the AIM-9X Sidewinder, and AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) can also be easily integrated to Gripen. All NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) missiles can be integrated with Gripen. And if India wants to integrate SCALP as well, that can be done,” says Mats Palmberg, Vice President, Industrial Partnerships, Saab, and head of Gripen India campaign.

About meteor, former Swedish Air Force chief Maj Gen Mats Helgesson said, “Meteor is a game-changer.” With its extensive range of capabilities, the missile can change the course of any mission, no doubt.