‘Space Command Must Check China’

June 16th, 2008 - by admin

Rajat Pandit / The Times of India – 2008-06-16 23:03:30


NEW DELHI (June 17, 2008) — With China developing anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles, lasers and other offensive space capabilities, India has no option but to be fully prepared for “star wars” in the future.

The creation of just “an integrated space cell”, announced by defence minister A K Antony last week, will just not do towards achieving this objective. What is needed is a full-fledged tri-service space command for effective tactical, operational and strategic exploitation of the “final frontier”.

The disquiet among the Indian military brass over China’s deadly counter-space military programme, with “direct-ascent” ASAT missiles, hit-to-kill “kinetic” and directed-energy laser weapons, came clearly through on Monday.

“China’s space programme is expanding at an exponentially rapid pace in both offensive and defensive content,” said army chief general Deepak Kapoor, adding that space was increasingly becoming the “ultimate military high ground” to dominate in the wars of the future.

Holding that it should be India’s endeavour to “optimize space applications for military purposes” at a seminar on “Indian military and space”, Gen Kapoor said the establishment of a tri-service space command “is required in the future”.

Integrated defence staff chief Lt-General H S Lidder, in turn, added, “With time, we will get sucked into the military race to protect space assets and inevitably there will be a military contest in space. In a life-and-death scenario, space will provide the advantage.”

India, of course, has been painfully slow to react to the huge Chinese strides in the military use of space, which was rudely brought home by its January 2007 test of an ASAT weapon, despite having a robust civilian space programme for several years.

India does not even have dedicated military satellites till now, with the armed forces depending on the “dual use” Cartosat-I, Cartosat-II and the recently-launched Cartosat-IIA for their Rs 1,000-crore satellite-based surveillance and reconnaissance (SBS) programme.

With ISRO finally promising to launch dedicated military satellites in the near future, defence scientists are also experimenting with some “high-power laser weapons”, say sources. But the operational use of such star wars-like weapons is still several years away.

India’s sheer lack of strategic defence planning is exemplified by the fact that though the armed forces, especially the IAF, have been clamouring for an aerospace command for several years now, it remains a mere pipedream.

Finally, just last week, Antony declared that an integrated defence space cell would be created to protect “the growing threat to our space assets”. The Defence Space Vision-2020, on its part, identifies just intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, communication and navigation as the thrust areas in the first phase till 2012.

India certainly needs effective utilization of space for “real-time” military communications and reconnaissance missions to keep closer tabs on troop movements, missile silos, military installations and airbases of neighbouring countries.

But this should be followed soon after by other uses of space like missile early-warning, delivery of precision-guided munitions through satellite signals, jamming enemy networks and, of course, ASAT capabilities.

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