Air to Air Missile - AAM

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Dec 23, 2022, 20:19

Air to Air Missile (AAM) is a type of missile that is directly fired from an aircraft to destroy other air-borne objects and aircraft. These missiles originated from the First World War's autonomous air-to-air rockets that were fired electrically. Air to Air Missile is driven by several rocket motors, which can be solid-fueled or liquid-fueled.

AAMs can be categorized into two broad types - short-range missiles and medium to long-range missiles. We have shared further information about Air to Air Missile, its types, its components, and its significance here.

Air to Air Missile - Overview

Air to Air Missile is generally used as an attack system to target air-borne objects. This type of missile can vary in size and is capable of generating great blasts. These types of missiles are also used as surface-to-air missiles. First used in World War I, Air to Air Missile resulted in high rate of casualties in several wars.

Some Air to Air Missiles have also been developed in India and used by the Indian military. The name of the indigenous Air to Air Missile is Astra, and it was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Government of India.


Air to Air Missile



First Use

World War I


Useful in destroying air-borne targets.

Types of Air to Air Missile

Based on the missile's range parameter, the Air to Air Missile is broadly categorized into two types: short-range or within-visual-range air-to-air missile (SRAAMs or WVRAAMs), and beyond-visual-range missiles (BVRAAMs), which consists of medium to long-range missiles. Here, we have shared more details about the Air to Air Missile types -

Short Range Air-to-Air Missile or Within Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile

Designed to target flying objects within a short range, Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles or SRAAMs are extremely agile and accurate. These missiles can target and engage with an opposing aircraft at a range of less than 16km. These are also referred to as heat-seeking missiles and dogfight missiles as they utilize infrared guidance.

Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM)

These are radar-guided missiles that cover a range of 37 kilometres and can attack targets beyond that. Since the infrared signatures of flying targets are very feeble at long ranges, they don't employ infrared detectors. BVRAAMs consists of medium and long-range Air to Air Missiles. These missiles also significantly rely on radar guidance.

Air to Air Missile - Uses

Air to Air Missile has been used by military organizations around the world, especially during time of war. These missiles are highly reliable devices used to destroy aero targets. Here are some of the uses of Air to Air Missiles -

  • Destroying opposing aircraft during war.
  • Intercepting information on the enemy aircraft.
  • Air to Air Missile can also be used as a surface to air missiles.

Air to Air Missile - Components

  • An AAM's frontal section comprises a conventional explosive burst warhead, fragmentation warhead, or continuous rod warhead that is commonly employed to impair or annihilate the targeted aircraft.
  • In an Air to Air Missile, a proximity fuse or an impact fuse is used to detonate warheads if it strikes a direct hit.
  • The propulsion system and the control actuation system (CAS) are located in the back of the missile.
  • Solid-fuel rockets with dual thrust are prevalent, although some longer-range missiles use liquid-fuel motors with throttling capability to expand the range and save fuel for energy-intensive final manoeuvres.

Air to Air Missile - History

The history of Air to Air Missile can be traced back to the First World War when unguided air to air rockets were being used by military organizations. Some pilots used to attack observation balloons using these air rockets. The Soviet Air Force introduced its K-5 Air to Air Missile in 1957.

Gradually, the use of short-range Air to Air Missile became common and by the 1960s, the use of beyond-visual-range Air to Air Missiles became very common in the United States.

Air to Air Missile in India

Astra, the Defence Research and Development Organisation's indigenously designed Air to Air Missile, is a BVRAAM. It covers a range of 80-110 kilometres and can strike flying targets. It has been incorporated with fighter aircraft such as the Sukhoi 30 MKI, LCA, MiG-29, and Mirage 2000.

Astra has a Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP), putting it among the most dependable weapon technologies in its category. The manufacturing and production of this all-weather missile began in 2017. This AAMs is the smallest missile developed by the DRDO in terms of size and weight.

The advancement of Air to Air Missile technology has been tremendous in recent decades. India's guided missile programme, the outcome of nearly three decades of research and development, has charted on a self-sustaining path, with Astra coming to the forefront. It has become critical to the country's envisaged minimum deterrence.

Important Current Affairs Topics

Barriers to Good GovernanceAbenomics
Administrative RelationsAgri Market Infrastructure Fund
Agri Udaan SchemeAgricultural Extension Service
Agricultural Price Policy in IndiaAgriculture Infrastructure Fund
Difference Between Coronavirus and Spanish FluDifference between Coronavirus SARS-Cov 2 and COVID-19

FAQs on Air to Air Missile

Q1. What is Air to Air Missile?

Air to Air Missile is a type of missile that is launched from an aircraft towards another aircraft or aerial object. Air to Air Missiles can shoot from different ranges and can cause severe damage to enemy aircraft. These missiles have been used in wars to destroy enemy observation aircraft.

Q2. Which is the best Air to Air Missile?

The best Air to Air Missile is the AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile). It is a combat-centric missile, which has had 20 years of upgrades, combat testing and design production. This is a beyond-visual-range Air to Air Missile that can be used in all weather conditions.

Q3. What is an Air to Air Missile used for?

An Air to Air missile is launched from an aircraft with the intent of destroying another aircraft in the air. It can be used for the following purposes -

  • To destroy the enemy aircraft.
  • To destroy observation aircraft that intercept the information.
  • Air to Air Missiles can also be used as a surface to air missiles.

Q4. Which is India's indigenously developed Air to Air Missile?

Astra is the Air to Air Missile that India has designed with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Government of India. It's a Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM) that can cover a range of 80-110 kilometres and can strike flying targets.