New Delhi, India: India is set to launch first-ever dedicated military satellite, Rohini, within a month. It is a naval surveillance and communications one, as part of their long-standing quest to effectively harness the final frontier of space, Times of India reported.
In addition, the Government of India recently announced a new post of Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (ACNS -communications, space and network-centric operations) at the Navy head-quarters. Rear Admiral Kishan K Pandey, a communications and electronic warfare specialist, had taken over as the new ACNS (CSNCO) in keeping with its endeavour to transform from a “platform-centric Navy” to a “network-enabled Navy”.
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”. It will enable the Navy to network all its warships, submarines and aircraft with operational centres ashore through high-speed data-links.
The long-delayed naval satellite is to be followed by ones for the Army and IAF for “over-the-land use”. In absence of dedicated satellites, the armed forces have so far depended on “dual-use” Indian satellites as well as lease of transponders on foreign ones for their navigation, communication, surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.
There are around 300 dedicated or dual-use military satellites orbiting around the earth at present, with the US operating over 50 percent of them, followed by Russia and China.
China, in particular, is pursuing an extensive military-space programme that even extends to advanced ASAT (anti-satellite) capabilities with “direct-ascent” missiles, hit-to-kill “kinetic” and directed-energy laser weapons.
DRDO, on its part, contends it can quickly fashion ASAT weapons, if required, by marrying the propulsion system of the over 5,000-km Agni-V missile tested recently with the “kill vehicle” of the almost-ready two-tier BMD ( ballistic missile system) system it has developed.
But India is still some distance away from effective ASAT capabilities. The government is also not yet willing to establish a tri-Service Aerospace Command on the lines of the Strategic Forces Command which handles nuclear weapons.