Indian armed forces are still to get their own dedicated surveillance and communication satellites despite several years of promises and plans.
Oct 13, 2011 Rajat Pandit, THE TIMES OF INDIA
NEW DELHI: PM Manmohan Singh may wax eloquent that the military will be equipped with "all necessary means to meet all threats", including those "which go beyond conventional warfare", but no sense of urgency is being shown in the space arena.
Indian armed forces are still to get their own dedicated surveillance and communication satellites despite several years of promises and plans, leave alone offensive space capabilities like ASAT (anti-satellite) weapons or advanced directed-energy laser weapons.
Moreover, the government continues to keep the desperately-needed tri-Service Aerospace Command in cold storage, even though China has taken to the military exploitation of space, which includes ASAT capabilities, in a major way.
Top defence officials admit the much-awaited launch of the naval communication and surveillance satellite, "Rohini", has been once again delayed by a year or so. Satellites for Army-IAF will only follow thereafter.
Incidentally, during the naval commanders' conference in 2009, defence minister A K Antony had declared that the satellite to boost connectivity over sea would be launched in early-2010.
Subsequently, Indian Space Research Organization ( ISRO) had revised the satellite's "launch window" to December 2010-March 2011. But to no avail.
"There has been another big delay now...it won't be possible before end-2012 at the earliest," said an official, even as all top military commanders are currently in New Delhi for their annual brain-storming sessions.
"The problem is the repeated failures of GSLV (geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle) and indigenous cryogenic engines (ISRO is now left with only one of the cryogenic engines imported from Russia)," he added.
With no early launch in sight, talk is gaining ground that India should contemplate a foreign launcher for its GSAT-7 series of military satellites.
The 2,330-kg naval satellite is supposed to have an around 1,000 nautical mile footprint over Indian Ocean, stretching from Red Sea to Malacca Strait, to ensure "network-centric operations" and "maritime domain awareness". The IAF-Army one, in turn, will have a similar footprint over land.
The Defence Space Vision-2020 identified only intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, communication and navigation as the thrust areas in Phase-I till 2012. But even such capabilities, which include the critical necessity to keep 24x7 tabs on enemy troop movements, warships, airbases and missile silos as well as bolster surveillance over Indian airspace, will remain limited in the absence of dedicated military satellites.
Interestingly, while India is publicly opposed to "militarization of space", the defence ministry last year had come out with a "Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap" till 2025 which identified space warfare as a priority area, as was first reported by TOI.
The roadmap, for instance, identified development of ASAT weapons "for electronic or physical destruction of satellites in both LEO (2,000-km altitude above earth's surface) and GEO-synchronous orbits" as a thrust area.