An Indian air force contingent with eight Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat aircraft, two Ilyushin Il-78 air-to-air refuellers and one Il-76 transport has left India to participate in the 9-23 August multinational exercise Red Flag '08 at the US Air Force's Nellis AFB in Nevada.

It will be the first time that the Russian-made Su-30MKI will participate in multinational manoeuvres involving US and other NATO fighters. India expects to spend around Rp1 billion ($23 million) on its participation in the air combat exercise.

Su-30 India 

Sources in India's state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation meanwhile say that preparations are in full swing for the first full test firing of the nation's home-grown Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile from an Su-30.

DRDO sources say the weapon will interrupt targets at speeds of Mach 1.2 to M1.4, but have not revealed the missile's range. The Astra - intended to arm aircraft such as the Dassault Mirage 2000 and RSK MiG-29 in air force service - has already undergone ground tests to check its avionics, electronics and other subsystems. The DRDO has also hinted at its intention to develop hypersonic weapon systems.

Source: Flight International