Dedicated Military Naval Satellite
India launched its first dedicated defense satellite, GSAT-7, for the Indian Navy on 30 August 2013. The Rs 185-crore GSAT-7 was successfully launched at 0200 hrs IST today (August 30, 2013) by the Ariane-5 launch vehicle of Arianespace from Kourou, French Guiana. Ariane-5 precisely placed GSAT-7 into the intended Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) after a flight of 34 minutes 25 seconds duration. As planned, ISRO's Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka started acquiring the signals five minutes prior to the separation of GSAT-7 from Ariane-5 launch vehicle. The solar panels of the satellite deployed and they were generating power. Initial checks indicated normal health of the satellite.
GSAT-7 is an advanced communication satellite built by ISRO to provide wide range of service spectrum from low bit rate voice to high bit rate data communication. GSAT-7 Communication payload is designed to provide communication capabilities to users over a wide oceanic region including the Indian land-mass. The payload configuration is compatible with I-2.5K bus of ISRO. The GSAT-7 payload design includes Multiband communication. It was thought essential to have an integrated platform for the Navy's exclusive use. Earlier, satellite communication in ships was through Inmarsat, a major provider of global mobile satellite communications services.
Indian Navy’s first dedicated satellite, Rukmini, went into operational mode soon after 13 October. That was the day when the satellite, GSAT 7, reached its geosynchronous orbital position at 70 degree east longitude. Asked whether the satellite will have auxiliary functions like ‘Targeting Guidance,’ the navy clarified that the latter is required for a ‘surveillance satellite’ and is not relevant for GSAT 7, which is a ‘communications satellite.’
There is evidently some confusion concerning Naval satellite programs. Defence News reported in November 2010 that "The Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO will launch their first dedicated military surveillance satellite for the Indian Navy late in 2010 or beginning 2011. The multi-band satellite will weigh 2,330 kg and will be lifted into a geostationary orbit 1,000 nautical miles above the Indian Ocean. With this satellite, a full network of warships, submarines, aircraft and land-based operation centers will be ready through high-speed data links. The coverage area will be 600-1,000 nm. Maritime threats will then be detected and shared in real time to ensure swift action. The entire project for this single dedicated military satellite for the Indian Navy will cost $212 million."
As of 2010 India planned to launch its first dedicated military satellite with a combined Naval Comsat and Naval surveillance mission to cover a swath of about 1,000 nautical miles over the Indian Ocean on its various orbital passes. Its launch according to the Ministry of Defense was scheduled between December 2010 and March 2011 using the GSLV booster with other India Air Force and India Army Satellites to follow in the coming years. This will greatly enhance the Indian navy C4ISR [Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] capability along with new operational practices and new surveillance aircraft being added to the overall naval capability.
Maritime security is intricately linked with geospatial intelligence. Seas due to their vastness and ungoverned nature are susceptible to a variety of trans-national crimes. The 26/11 Mumbai attack is a grim reminder of vulnerability of the maritime domain and porosity of our long coastline. We have already initiated a slew of measures such as coastal radar chain and AIS network to improve India's maritime domain awareness [MDA] off and along the coast. Efforts are on to set up the NC3I network and to establish a National MDA system to seamlessly integrate information from multiple sources and maritime agencies. India also have been supporting several friendly IOR littorals with similar infrastructure to enhance their MDA. Needless to say, geospatial applications are the core of most of these projects.
Awareness of entities and happenings within the maritime domain is the key to effective operations by the Indian Navy, and the Maritime Military Strategy recognises the importance of this aspect. The challenges arising due to the presence of neutral warships and mercantile marine in maritime warfare are outlined in the "Indian Maritime Doctrine." The associated complexities and consequence of such presence requires Naval Forces to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) for effective operations by the Indian Navy.
Surveillance efforts are based on a large number of sensors which function on a spectrum which may range from Optical to Microwave. The information from active and passive sensors needs to be correlated, associated and fused to provide a comprehensive representation of the overall maritime domain picture without causing an information overload or an erroneous indication of the actual number of objects/targets in the area of interest. This will be facilitated by data fusion technology, networking of sensors and would be taken forward through the initiatives of Network Centric Operations.
Identification at sea will continue to be the biggest hurdle. While a common database of all contacts in a theatre would reduce the identification problem, the long ranges and lethality of modern weapons necessitate higher degrees of certainty in identification prior to engagement. To aid identification, modern technology coupled with correct target identification procedures and data fusion techniques will be used. The IMO mandated Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) will be critical enablers for ascertaining neutrals in our area of operations. However, these are not fool-proof methods, and cooperation with maritime neighbours, use of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) and collation of inputs by units at sea will have to be merged to obtain an accurate picture of the maritime domain.
The existing connectivity enables a near real-time Maritime Domain Awareness plot to be maintained at all Maritime Operation Centres (MOCs) enabling exchange of positional awareness and networking sensor information of own assets. In the short term, the Indian Navy intends to achieve a satellite-based comprehensive communications capability in the IOR. In the long term, an all-encompassing surveillance and communications capability will be achieved through a constellation of satellites.
Elements that contribute to MDA that merit attention include investments in satellite-based surveillance technologies. Such space-based assets would be supported by investments in long range UAVs (both ship-borne and shore-based), maritime reconnaissance and Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft and helicopters. The recent advances in optronic technologies would also be harnessed for improving situational awareness and resolving the identification dilemma at sea.
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