India ‘resurrects obsolete’ Russian X-31P air-to-air missile

India’s Ministry of Defense is planning to invest in extending the service life of X-31P air-launched missiles. These missiles are deployed by India’s Su-30MKI and MiG-29 aircraft. While the Indian IDRW resource hints that these might replace the Russian Kh-31P missiles, it’s notable that the EoI document itself does not mention the origin of these missiles. 

India 'resurrects obsolete' Russian X-31P air-to-air missile
Photo credit: Reddit

Interestingly, the EoI specifies that the maintenance, including overhaul, refurbishment, and life extension of these end-of-life X-31P missiles, should be carried out by domestic Indian firms. This comes as a surprise, considering India only acquired the X-31P missiles back in 2019. 

It’s worth noting that the Indian Ministry of Defense placed a substantial $700 million order around that time, which included 300 Russian short-range R-73 air-to-air missiles and 400 medium-range RVV-AE [R-77] missiles. According to the Russian ArmsTrade resource, this package also included an undisclosed number of X-31P missiles. Additionally, under a $462.7 million contract with JSC Tactical Missile Weapons Corporation [KTRV], the Indian Air Force received 500 medium-range RVV air-to-air guided missiles between 2014 and 2015.

India 'resurrects obsolete' Russian X-31P air-to-air missile
Photo credit: Flickr

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Indian companies are involved in maintaining the missiles. While there’s no official word on industrial cooperation here, it’s hard to imagine that Russia and India didn’t come to a similar understanding for the X-31P maintenance for the Indian Air Force, which happens to be carried out in India. 

Extending the life of the X-31P involves a range of factors, from its shelf life and service life to various usage limits based on factors like landings and system activation cycles. But the real curiosity is why a missile acquired just five years ago would already be considered “expired.” Plus, it’s intriguing that there are enough missiles in stock to warrant such maintenance, akin to mid-life upkeep for munitions. 

The Kh-31P is a Russian air-to-ground missile known for its high speed and versatility. It was designed primarily for the purpose of engaging and destroying enemy radar installations, making it an essential tool in electronic warfare. The missile is a part of the Kh-31 family, which includes various versions tailored for different missions, including anti-ship and anti-radiation roles.

The dimensions of the Kh-31P are notable for their compactness relative to its capabilities. The missile has a length of approximately 4.7 meters [about 15.4 feet] and a diameter of 0.36 meters [about 1.18 feet]. Its wingspan is around 0.914 meters [about 3 feet], which aids in its aerodynamic stability during flight. 

The propulsion system of the Kh-31P is a key feature that contributes to its high performance. It utilizes a dual-mode solid-fuel rocket/ramjet engine. This propulsion system allows the missile to achieve supersonic speeds, making it difficult for enemy defenses to intercept. The rocket booster accelerates the missile to a high speed, after which the ramjet sustains its velocity. 

Technical characteristics of the Kh-31P include its guidance system and warhead. The missile is equipped with a passive radar homing head, which enables it to detect and home in on radar emissions from enemy installations. The warhead is typically a high-explosive fragmentation type, designed to maximize damage upon impact.

The Kh-31P is designed to be compatible with a variety of launch platforms. It can be deployed from multiple types of aircraft, including fighters and bombers. This flexibility allows it to be integrated into various tactical scenarios, enhancing the operational capabilities of the forces using it. 

The operational range of the Kh-31P varies depending on the specific version and launch conditions. Generally, it has a range of approximately 110 kilometers [about 68 miles]. This range allows it to engage targets from a safe distance, reducing the risk to the launching aircraft.


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