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Israeli I-Derby ER: Will it enable IAF Sukhoi’s to take on AMRAAM armed PAF fighters

The aerial dogfight on February 27 in Nowshera sector brought to fore the vulnerability of the IAF fighters against the Pakistani jet armed with US-made AIM-120 C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM).

On February 27, 2019, a formation of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighters which included US made F-16's approached the LoC to attack military targets in India. The IAF reportedly scrambled eight fighter planes, including two SU-30MKI jets to intercept the Pakistani formation. IAF was stunned by use of AIM-120 C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) by Pakistan. The long range missile was fired from the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

IAF's Sukhoi-30MKI (Su-30MKI) air superiority multipurpose fighter jets are armed with Russian-made R-77 missiles. The IAF then realised that the Russian R-77s, did not have the range to counter the Pakistani fighters. The range of Russian missiles is believed to be approximately 80 kilometres. Reports say that two SU-30MKI's managed to dodge the AMRAAMs which were fired at close to their maximum range of 100 kilometres.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) was looking to modernise its Sukhoi-30 fleet, and that gathered significant pace after the February 27's dogfight with PAF F-16s.

The IAF has now decided to re-arm frontline Sukhoi-30 fighters with Israeli Derby air-to-air missiles. I-Derby ER (extended range) beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) would eventually replace Russian-made Vympel R-77 (AA-12 'Adder') AAMs by 2021-22, claims a report in Jane's. IAF has already successfully tested the BrahMos hypersonic cruise missile for a ground attack role on the Su-30MKI platform. The integration of I-Derby ER is expected to make Su-30MKI's air superiority role complete.

The fire-and-forget I-Derby ER missile features a software-defined radar seeker and a dual-pulse solid rocket motor. Another advantage of the I-Derby ER is its ability to lock onto targets before and after launch, enabling the aircraft to engage targets at all ranges. The main challenge, however, is integrating the I-Derby ER missile into the Russian fighter.

An NDTV report says that the I-Derby missile is a considerably more advanced that the missiles presently in service with the IAF. With a range of beyond 100 km, the I-Derby ER said to be significantly better than Russian-made R-77s.

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