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India’s Military Space Program

The use of satellites for military purpose began in 1958 when the United States launched the communications satellite SCORE which simply transmitted a pre-recorded message from space. Since 1958, more than 2000 military satellites, .initially experimental and later operational, have been launched by the USA and USSR alone, so as to have a secure world-wide satellite communications network free from all interferences including jamming and deception. Space now includes and will include for many years to come the military EW functions such as surveillance, reconnaissance, warning, survivable C3I, detection, targeting, weapon control, weapon delivery and target damage assessment.

The India-China military space relationship has been driven by the security dilemma in international relations. China pursues military space capabilities in part to counter perceived national security threats posed by the US quest for space dominance and missile defense. military doctrines and strategies change at a bewildering pace in the modern era and that technologies have to respond imaginatively to these changes. Military space systems can gather information about distant battle-fields, transmit it in real time to command centres and inflict damage to targets through remotely controlled weaponry, without putting personnel at risk. Indian military and defense strategies have to respond to such realities.

The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony announced 10 June 2008 the formation of an Integrated Space Cell under the aegis of the Integrated Defence Services Head Quarters to counter ‘the growing threat to our space assets’. Addressing the Unified Commanders’ Conference here, he said, although we want to utilize space for peaceful purposes and remain committed to our policy of non-weaponisation of space, ‘offensive counter space systems like anti-satellite weaponry, new classes of heavy-lift and small boosters and an improved array of Military Space Systems have emerged in our neighbourhood’. Shri Antony said the new Cell will act as a single window for integration among the Armed Forces, the Department of Space and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

India began its unmanned RISAT-2 spacecraft based radar imaging program with the April 20, 2009 launch of a copy of the all-weather Israeli radar imaging surveillance program satellite TecSAR they had purchased for $200 million. This is to be utilized to address defense border security issues for India. This RISAT-2 and the new in development dedicated Military Naval Satellite as well as in development RECSAT for India hearld a new era for India

Pushed by Indian immediate national security concerns that it not fall behind in intelligence surveillance advantage operational issues has sparked the Indian governments actions and its military with its security requirements responsibility on these programs. Literally wartime like emergency requirements was applied to get this program moving on the path to launch as quickly as possible.

This is in addition to their new higher resolution daylight imaging spacecraft launched in 2008 and the existing low and medium resolution remote sensing satellites already being utilized by Indian Intelligence organization for the State and military.

The knowledge of terrain forms the essence of military operations. Geospatial tools for navigation, situational awareness, command and control, operations, or even training and maintenance, forms the core of any military’s functioning. ISR is an area that has been revolutionised by geospatial technology towards improving situational awareness. Space-based surveillance and live data streamed from UAVs can drastically shorten sensor-to-shooter loop. Fusion of information from multiple sensors provides unprecedented battlespace transparency, enabling cooperative engagement over extended ranges. Jointness is the mantra for modern warfare. Therefore, common geospatial reference has enabled integration of situational data from different services for achieving operational synergy.

Space-based navigation is one of the major achievements of this technology with the GPS and GLONASS systems having existed for nearly two decades. However, concerns of data ownership, besides the needs for autonomy and redundancy, have driven the development of alternatives such as the EU’s Galileo, China’s Beidou and India's own IRNSS. Having an indigenous satellite navigation system will boost military capabilities across the spectrum, from basic navigation to high precision ordnance delivery. The armed forces are committed to self-reliance and would support all efforts of the industry in this direction.

The Integrated Space Cell (ISC, initiated in 2008) may want to put a long line of defense application oriented satellites into orbit. Already an "eye-in-the-sky” system for the Air Force is being considered. The Integrated Space Cell was operated jointly by the three service arms, the DRDO, and the ISRO, making it more of a central information network system than an offensive one. The CARTOSAT-2A, a dedicated satellite of the Indian Armed Forces, will also fall under the jurisdiction of this nodal agency. Although a fledgling agency, the ISC may be the stepping stone to a fully fledged Indian Military Space Command.

India, with a strong conviction on the vast potential of the use of outer space for peaceful uses, has been demonstrating it through various space based applications and services for national and societal purposes. India has been actively participating in the formulation of various international treaties on space law in Committees of United Nations. India has been using the space systems for national security purposes, as most other nations are also doing, since such uses are per se not prevented by the UN treaties on space law. However, India strongly oppose to any attempt to place weapons in space or conducting any unconventional weapons tests in space, as it would pose a perennial threat to all space systems regardless of their use for civilian or military purposes. India is carefully watching the international developments and the attempts of few countries to formulate some legal instruments to prevent any arms race in outer space. Suitable steps would be considered / taken at appropriate time, without causing any prejudice to Indian national interests.

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Page last modified: 17-05-2019 17:23:56 ZULU