18 September 2006 – The Indian Army is all set to implement its first ever space based force multiplier — the Satellite Based Surveillance and Reconnaissance (SBS) system.
The project is expected to be completed by January end 2007 although the original deadline was early 2006. Sources in the Armed Forces say the SBS project, once fully-operational, will allow them to keep closer tabs on troop movements, missile silos, military installations and airbases of neighbouring countries, as well as augment surveillance over Indian airspace.
“Cartosat-I (launched atop PSLV in May 2005) and Cartosat-II (to be launched by 2006-end) satellites, though primarily civilian, will form an essential part of the SBS project. The armed forces will get direct feeds from them,” said a top source.
“With DIPAC (Defence Imagery Processing and Analysis Centre) in Delhi and a satellite control facility in Bhopal, the forces will even have some operational control like shutter-control over the satellites,” he added.
This is not to say the forces have not used satellite imagery for tactical and strategic intelligence till now. The Army, for instance, was getting almost one-metre resolution ‘image feeds’ from the Technology Experiment Satellite (TES). This ‘spy’ satellite, launched in October 2001, even provided ‘high-quality feeds’ of Pakistani troop movements as well as the Afghanistan conflict. “But TES is almost out of its operational life now. We, of course, also use imagery from other Indian remote-sensing satellites as well as feeds from Russian and Israeli satellites when required,” a source said.