The military role of space satellites has increased incessantly in last three decades. In the early 1960s, the first reconnaissance and surveillance satellites were launched by the United States, and the Soviet Union followed within a few years. In addition, military communications, navigation, meteorology and other satellites were developed during this period. By the 1980s, systems such as the Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as reconnaissance satellites were of major importance in the military affairs.
Military space satellites are used both for peacetime collection of intelligence of the enemy, as well as the location of targets, troops deployment and to support combat operations in modern warfare. Therefore India is heading towards development of space capabilities; such capabilities would revamp their overall surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities which is an essential element in the modern Warfare.
Indian military have used satellite imagery from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) civil satellites since the early 1990s. Most civil satellites can also be used for military purposes. Most militaries in the world use commercially available imagery from satellites. Space satellites are vital for the C4I systems. India has acquired an Israeli RISAT-2 satellite in 2009 that has day and night viewing capability. This satellite will keep a 24/7 watch over Pakistan even when the landmass is covered by a thick cloud cover. This capability puts the satellite in the class of what are often called spy satellites. The launch of RISAT-2 satellite will give India the capability to closely track down military activities in Pakistan.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also developing its very own RadarSat at the cost of almost 400 million Indian rupees. Indian Defense and Research Development Organization’s Chief Saraswat has announced “We are looking at launching one or two satellites every year to fulfill the requirements of all three military formations………………“Once these satellites are operational, we will be able to see troop movements along the borders,”………. “The key is high-resolution images with precision…………………“……….”Data and commands can be sent through these satellites to cruise missiles.” These satellites in place would give India an edge in any future conflict or war against Pakistan.
These satellites will be developed and launched by ISRO based on requirements projected by the armed forces. Another important factor which needs an attention is the flow of high tech technology to India after the Indo-US deal 2008. Such a discriminatory policy of the international community would create strategic imbalance in south Asia, Pakistan’s security will be in frenzy if India acquired such capabilities. In addition to that India is also developing Communication-Centric Intelligence Satellite (CCI-Sat). This satellite is being developed by the Defense Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL) under the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). This satellite will help Indian intelligence agencies to considerably improve their surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan and other neighboring countries.
Director (DLRL) G. Bhoopathy revealed this project on February 2010 and said, that “We are in the process of designing and developing a spacecraft fitted with an intelligent sensor that will pick up conversations and communications across the borders,”. The satellite will be operational by 2014 and will also serve as a test bed for anti-satellite weapon development.
India is also developing a dedicated satellite to facilitate Indian Naval communication and network centric warfare will be launched into geostationary orbit by ISRO in 2010. This satellite will facilitate networking of Indian Naval warships, submarines and aircraft among themselves as well as with operational centres ashore through high-speed data-links, allowing Maritime threats to be detected and shared in real-time to ensure swift reaction.
Indian military is developing a first dedicated Indian Air Force satellite which is scheduled for launch in 2011-12. According to IAF Chief Fali H. Major, the satellite will serve as the Air Force’s eye in the skies. It will link up the six AWACS that the IAF is acquiring with each other as well as other ground and airbased radars.
Indian Military is regularly improving its surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. From 2004-2011 it has carried out 12 major war games and in these exercises it has practiced its surveillance, reconnaissance and space imaging capabilities. In 2004 Indian army introduced Long-Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS) in this Exercise Divya Astra, which it has bought from Israel. LORROS is a high quality, remotely controlled ground based observation system designed for medium and long range surveillance. This kind of a system is good for intelligence gathering and reconnaissance purposes. In 2005 Indian military carried out Exercise Vajra Shakti. In this exercise Indian military practiced its satellite imaging facilities. First time, a Force Multiplication Command Post (FMCP) was set up to integrate real-time flow of information as a principal tool for decision making and NCW capabilities in the Indian Army.
Most significant war game as far as satellite imagery is concerned was Exercise Hind Shakti in 2009. In this particular exercise Indian military practiced satellite imagery, helicopter borne surveillance systems, UAVs and ground-based surveillance resources such as LORROS, Battlefield Surveillance Radars (BFSRs) and Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs). In this exercise, India practiced latest weapons and equipments with the help of NCW and EW systems. Satellite imagery, modern surveillance and reconnaissance equipment will enhance Indian military’s effectiveness to carry out synergized, limited, quick and swift operations.
In 2011 Indian military practiced Exercise Pine Prahar. In this Exercise Indian military rehearsed the capabilities to employ real time intelligence from unarmed aerial vehicles, geostationary satellites, ground-based sensors and human intelligence. These capabilities will enable the Indian military to fight a war in Network Centric environment and assist the field commanders in battlefield precision, fast decision-making and rapid execution of operations. It is a possibility that in next five to ten years Indian military will be able to fully employ satellite capabilities in its armed forces which could be a significant threat to Pakistan’s military, nuclear and other sensitive installations.
Indian Military satellites would have wide range of implications for Pakistan and for the entire region. These satellites will improve Indian military’s surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; that would provide Indian military with round the clock coverage of Pakistan’s military installations, deployment of Pakistan army close to the border with India. After acquiring such capabilities Indian military would be confident to launch a preemptive conventional strike against Pakistan’s nuclear weapon delivery systems at their bases. Therefore Pakistan’s missile forces and launching site will also be vulnerable of detection, monitoring and target by Indian military. Furthermore India’s accesses to high tech international market after the Indo-US deal will impact negatively on strategic stability of south Asia. Therefore it is imperative for Pakistan Military’s decision makers to closely monitor Indian military’s space program and come up with adequate response to counter any future challenges and threats to Pakistan’s security.
Originally Published in Weekly pulse English magazine Islamabad.