India Ramps Up Military Satellite Plans
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India Ramps Up Military Satellite Plans

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The latest GSAT-7A satellite is dedicated to the air force but shared by the army

Satellites offer numerous ISR advantages, ones that the Indian military needs more than ever.

As the need for maritime domain awareness grows, and as border tensions with China and Pakistan increase, vulnerabilities in Indian space security have caused Delhi to look to build up its minuscule number of military satellites.

Presently, India has around 15 military-application satellites, with the latest GSAT-7A dedicated to the air force but shared by the army.

In 2022, the $225 million GSAT-7R — an Indian Navy (IN) communications satellite — will replace GSAT-7 Rukmini launched eight years ago. It is the last of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s seven fourth-generation satellites with a 2,000nmi coverage range over the Indian Ocean.

An official told Shephard that GSAT-7R would have better transponders, use the Ka-band ‘and may go for the V band’.

Ex-IN spokesman DK Sharma said that GSAT-7R ‘is very important. There are thousands of Chinese vessels that need to be surveyed, and we do not want a Philippines-type incident’. He was referring to Chinese encroachments in the Philippine EEZ at Whitsun Reef in March.

GISAT-1, India’s first Earth observation satellite in geostationary orbit, will benefit the military by facilitating near real-time observation of the Indian subcontinent under cloud-free conditions at frequent intervals. The launch, delayed by over one year, is expected in 2021.

Military space missions require both defensive and offensive capabilities. For example, the Defence Research and Development Organisation is working on laser-based directed-energy weapons (DEW) for tactical air defence, anti-ballistic missile defence and anti-satellite (ASAT) applications. An official said offensive DEW capabilities require priority.

S Chandrashekhar of the National Institute of Advanced Studies Bangalore said: ‘Identifying areas to develop and strengthen technological capabilities to establish effective deterrence is the logical next step.’

Meanwhile, Anil Kumar Singh, country manager at DataPath India, told Shephard: ‘India needs early-warning satellites to monitor intercontinental ballistic missile launches [ICBM] and even tactical airspace as an important military asset, and ground-/space-based lasers to disable enemy satellites or destroy/degrade attacking ICBMs as part of an ASAT [anti-satellite] capability.’

The Defence Space Agency recently invited proposals for space situational awareness solutions that can ‘detect, identify and track enemy assets while also warning about any impending attacks’. The technology required must predict threats from ASAT weapons, space debris, DEW and RF interference.

DataPath supplies military-grade ground-portable antennas to the air force via Bharat Electronics. Chopra said 500-600 antennas were in the procurement pipeline, with 1.2m Ku band the most popular.

He remarked: ‘Some are looking at the Ka-band that gives better bandwidth and speed… but procurement processes need to be speeded up.’

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