Defence Industry

Slice of Outer Space for the Indian Military
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Vol. 30.1 Jan-Mar 2015 | Date : 11 Nov , 2015

India and China commenced their respective journey into space piggy back on the Soviet Union about six decades ago. But within a decade, China broke off from the Soviets and commenced her solo journey into space. China’s resolve and intent were clear and publicly stated by Mao,“…to make China an equal with the superpowers with the objective of placing a satellite in orbit by 1959 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the PRC.”1 China trusted and placed the space program under People’s Liberation Army with military intent. China achieved what it stated and is a space power to reckon with today. India, on the other hand, made a modest beginning under civilian establishment with no military intent. India took baby steps and made modest gains and today is a space power in her own right.

A  nation aspiring to become regional or global power must have empowered Defence Forces capable of winning wars, indigenous weapon systems manufacturing industry, national sources for energy needs, dominate outer space and cyber space; anything short – expression of such aspirations are only delusions of grandeur.

Since time immemorial, man has always desired to dominate his environment. Be it for self-preservation or as programmed by nature, the physically strongest in the herd was the first, the fastest and the best. Gaining domination through military power was the latent motivation and driving force for the inventions or discoveries that man made in air and outer space.

Air Space

Almost as soon as aircraft were invented, they were used for military purposes. As is a man’s wont to dominate, it was not long before aircraft were shooting at each other. World War II saw a great increase in the pace of development and production, not only of aircraft but also the associated flight-based weapon delivery systems.

The Indian government never took the military into the calculus of planning the strategy for national defence…

Military use of airplanes or for that matter any emerging technology or invention, took precedence over commercial use. By 1955, most development efforts shifted to guided Surface-to-Air Missiles. With the launch of the Sputnik in 1957 by the Soviet Union, the ICBM front opened for long-range and fast nuclear weapons delivery.2 Thus began the space race among the nations.

Exploration of Outer Space

Among the many pressing military needs was communications with forces operating at sea and over inhospitable or inaccessible terrain. The terrestrial means available could not measure up to these pressing military requirements. Hence the military necessity to explore outer space to fulfill these requirements arose.3 The Soviet space program achieved many of the first milestones, including the first living being in orbit in 1957, the first human spaceflight in 1961, the first spacewalk on March 18, 1965, the first automatic landing on another celestial body in 1966 and the launch of the first space station in 1971.

Aspiring to play a larger role and to become a global power, China began its space exploration under the People’s Liberation Army.4 Due to Cold War tension, in December 1963, Mao decided that China should develop missile defence system capability. On October 27, 1966, a nuclear-tipped DF-2A missile was launched from Jiuquan and the 20-kilotonne yield nuclear warhead exploded. As the Space Race between the two superpowers reached its climax with the US conquest of the Moon, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai decided on July 24, 1969, that the PRC should not be left behind and therefore, initiated China’s own crewed space program.5

India, on the other hand, under lofty ideals of guiding the world to peaceful co-existence, began space exploration with no military content or intent. The Indian government never took the military into the calculus of planning the strategy for national defence. India’s first satellite, the Aryabhatta, was launched by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1975.6

Militarised Outer Space

Space-based capabilities provide essential support to military operations across the joint battle space. Space-based systems, integrated with the terrestrial C4I infrastructure, provide critical capabilities for war fighting in joint operations on land, sea and in the air7. Thus nations having built these capabilities started dictating terms to lesser nations and had a greater say in the UN. Peeved at this, China accelerated her space programme.

The drone program has involved more than 370 attacks in Pakistan since 2004…

From the perspective of the 21st century, the use of American military space systems in Operation Desert Storm may be seen as a watershed in the history of military technology and military tactics, ranking with the introduction of effective armored tactics in World War II, the machine gun at the beginning of the last century and perhaps in time it will rank with the introduction of gunpowder, the long-bow, chariots and bronze swords several millennia ago.8

Military and non-military activities in space are becoming increasingly inter-dependent and terrestrial military forces becoming ever more dependent on an ever-growing numbers of operational military spacecraft. The United States operates separate military and civilian low altitude weather satellites, though the military uses data from both systems. Russia operates a single network of such satellites, presumably for the equal convenience of military and civilian users.9

Global Positioning System (GPS), developed by the United States Air Force and provided free to everyone, is the world’s public utility in a similar manner as the internet developed by Pentagon. Today, GPS is a critical part of the planet’s infrastructure and the backbone of civil, economic, and defence activity everywhere.10 The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and European Union Galileo positioning system were developed contemporaneously with GPS. Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System and the Chinese Beidou Navigation Satellite System are underway.

An increasing number of unmanned military satellite projects reached maturity in the 1970s and 1980s. To manage these complex projects, some of which made possible verification of the arms control and nuclear test ban treaties, HQ-USAF established Air Force Space Command on November 15, 1985.11

The Chinese interest in selling launch services to the West may be based from a desire to utilise manufacturing facilities that were originally constructed to produce ICBMs. And over the past two years, the US Air Force has gained control of American commercial expendable launch vehicles.12 France and Britain, who have long used space for military communications, will soon follow China’s lead in placing military intelligence satellites in space. Canada and Italy are planning new military communications systems, and Canada is evaluating more ambitious projects as well. Israel joined the ranks of space-faring nations in 1988, and is ready for launching more sophisticated intelligence collection satellites.13

Space is an integral component of United States military planning. A sure sign of its essential nature can be found in the dozens of satellites from the United States and its international coalition partners that supported military campaigns in the Republic of Iraq in 2003, the Islamic State of Afghanistan in 2001, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999.14 Satellites don’t attack directly, but rather they offer what the Pentagon calls “force enhancement” – surveillance, reconnaissance, communications, navigation, missile warning. In fact, they are used to relay the most sensitive information between the US President and the armed forces.15

The advent of asymmetrical warfare with the emergence of non-state players of various hues and shades has added a new dimension to war fighting. Terrorists are well versed with technology and locating them is becoming increasingly difficult. In fact, many use space-based technology to their advantage. September 09, 2001 and November 26, 2008 attacks are stark reminders of this.

The ISRO opposed military applications for its dual-use projects such as the SLV-3…

The CIA has been using drones guided and controlled through satellites in Pakistan and other countries to assassinate “terrorist leaders.” While this programme was initiated by the Bush Administration, it has increased under Obama and there have been 41 known drone strikes in Pakistan since Obama became President.16 US forces use information from satellite-based top-secret signals intelligence to identify the location of terrorist suspects. It is then fed into a drone strike program and other military operations. The drone program, which has involved more than 370 attacks in Pakistan since 2004, is reported to have killed between 2,500 and 3500 Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, including many top commanders.17 The United States launched a series of air strikes against Sunni militants in northern Iraq in September 2014, using Predator drones.18

Modern day technologies provides for pin-pointing the target and destroying it with surgical strikes. But in the context of Indian decision making matrix for the military, Admiral D.K Joshi (Retd) stated, “Where there is authority, there is no accountability. And where there is responsibility, there is no authority. Professional competence, domain expertise, accountability, responsibility and authority, these all reside in separate silos in different locations. While professional competence, accountability, responsibility is with the service, that is not the case with authority. And by authority, I really mean the power to approve something, empowerment to approve something or the other.”19

Admiral Joshi added, “Those who wield authority have no accountability and vested interests have stalled reforms in Higher Defence Management”.20] &21 Thus the vested interests of politico-bureaucratic nexus have found it unprofitable to equip the military with such technology to eliminate terrorism and reduce own casualties. India has been tackling state-sponsored terrorism since 1989 by merely putting more boots on ground. In developed countries, the governments trust their military. Thus the military drive the technology-based industry for production of war winning weapon systems to ensure national security and national interests.

Militarisation and Weaponisation of Outer Space

Space weaponisation is generally understood to refer to the placement in orbit of space-based devices with destructive capacity.22 Currently, there are no weapons deployed in space. The United States has invested in developing potential technologies and both China and the United States have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The United States Department of Defense continues to invest in programs that could provide anti-satellite and space-based weapons capabilities.23 Chinese officials have expressed growing concern and Beijing may feel compelled to respond by introducing its own space weapons.24

Satellites are vulnerable to an array of weapons and disruptive technologies such as anti-satellite missiles and sophisticated cyber-attacks that can have potentially devastating results from degrading capabilities to complete annihilation. There is strong evidence that the anti-satellite weapon China tested in May 2013 went higher than low-Earth orbit, inferred a space and public policy consulting group. If China continues to make strides and develops weapons that reach farther, it could one day threaten key satellites in geosynchronous orbit.25

Space Leap by Asian Powers

India and China commenced their respective journeys into space piggy back on the Soviet Union about six decades ago. But within a decade, China broke off from the Soviets and commenced her solo journey into space. China’s resolve and intent were clear and publicly stated by Mao,“…to make China an equal with the superpowers with the objective of placing a satellite in orbit by 1959 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the PRC.”26 China trusted and placed the space program under People’s Liberation Army with military intent. China achieved what it stated and is a space power to reckon with today.

India, on the other hand, made a modest beginning under civilian establishment with no military intent. India took baby steps and made modest gains and today is a space power in her own right. The recent success of Mars Orbital Mission (MOM) bears testimony to this. While China leapt to the ‘Big Five’ league of the world in 1971 with veto power within two decades. India is still struggling to get a seat in the UNSC after nearly seven decades. China’s spectacular space and cyber march is driven by the military and has caused serious concern to the USA which fears a possible second “Pearl Harbour”.27

The world only respects the power of the gun…

There is one Asian giant that trusts its military and makes a brilliant leap of faith within two decades to reach its destination of being among the Big Five and continues to take progressive strides. The other Asian hopeful has not put trust in its military and is ambling, getting needled by pygmies and struggling to find its way even after nearly seven decades to reach anywhere near the Big Five.

Outer and Inner Space for Indian Military

The Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister had rued the fact that the tremendous strides made by India in space exploration have not gone to fill the gap in India’s capability to create space assets designed to equip military to meet the challenges of the future.28 The ISRO opposed military applications for its dual-use projects such as the SLV-3.29 Even during the Kargil Conflict, the Research and Analysis Wing too, proved hostile to requests for border-area surveillance and generally did not support the military.30 As a knee-jerk reaction to the Mumbai terrorist attacks in December 2008, ISRO launched the RISAT 2, which it purchased off the shelf from Israel.31 The military has not got a satellite to shorten its “sensor-to-shooter loop” – the ability to swiftly detect and tackle a threat.32

GSAT-7, the multi-band communication satellite named Rukmini is the first satellite launched by ISRO in August 2013 that provides services to the Indian defence forces with the main user being the Indian Navy.33 The Integrated Space Cell is the nodal agency within the Government of India which oversees the security of its space-based military and civilian hardware systems. It is jointly operated by the military and ISRO. The functions of this cell appear more like Multi Agency Centre of merely information sharing rather than strategising, planning and carrying out executive functions.34

Aspiring to play a larger role and to become a global power, China began its space exploration under the People’s Liberation Army…

Of course, Indian industries continue to support the Indian space program by way of the supply of components and systems. In sharp contrast, in the US and West Europe, private industrial outfits have built up a technological and manufacturing base resurgent enough to supply both the satellites and launch vehicles in a ready-to-use condition. It will be wise for India too to entrust the military with the resources, expertise, talent and infrastructure available in the country-cutting across the Private-Public sector barriers for realising the space-based assets for the exclusive use of defence forces on a fast track without bureaucratic impediments.

The Indian military continues to be used to launch operations without being equipped as a modern war-winning force. Despite the availability of national resources, skills and will both in public and private sector, the nexus with vested interests has not allowed the domestic industry to build up modern military weapon systems. The decision making by the vested interests in matters military, without taking the latter in the decision making loop, has been baffling. Examples of such bewildering defeatist political decisions in the India-China War of 1962 35 & 36, Indo-Pak War, 1965,37 Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971,38 IPKF operations in Sri Lanka, 198739 and the Kargil Conflict 199940 & 41 are illustrative and instructive.

One of the consequences of such political ham-handedness, is that the Indian military, even when dealt a winning hand, simply does not trust the Indian government (vested interests) and its elected rulers to do right by them and the country.42 Such apparently inexplicable acts of the politico-bureaucratic nexus keeping the military seriously unprepared may lie in their misconceived perceptions. Firstly, that the Indian military under the British Raj did not take violent actions to advance the cause of the Indian non-violent freedom struggle. Secondly, that a strong Indian military may overthrow a democratically elected government. Both these perceptions are ill-founded and farcical.

Under lofty ideals of guiding the world to peaceful co-existence, India began space exploration with no military content or intent…

Why then has the military, subordinate to the civilian government, been systematically subjugated to the point of being made subservient? Military leaders have been denigrated to favour and patronage seekers of the politico-bureaucratic nexus. Even the war-disabled ex-servicemen have also not been spared. India would perhaps be the only country which does not have even one serving or retired soldier in the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in its Ministry of Defence. This department has distinguished itself in denying the rightful dues and denigrating the war disabled veterans of the military.43

Why is India the only country in the world which implicitly distrusts its own private sector while explicitly trusting foreign private players for its defence needs? Why have the defence R&D and public sector units in India repeatedly fail to produce military equipment of current technology? China, which was on the radar of the top buyers, has migrated to among the top five weapons suppliers. India, on the other hand, is one of the top buyers in the arms bazaar. The Ministry of Defence is the decision making authority for all major defence purchases.44 A scrutiny of a few of the defence purchases scams from Independence till date – the Jeep scandal of 1948 to VVIP Choppers scam in 2013, may provide some insight into systemic plan of the politico-bureaucratic nexus of keeping the military toothless and the defence production plagued.45, 46, 47, 48, 49 & 50

The opportunity for scams and the subjugation of national interest is embedded in politics. In his book, “Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu and Indrajit Gupta”, released in November 2013, former CBI Director Dr A.P Mukherjee wrote that Rajiv Gandhi wanted commission paid by defence suppliers to be used exclusively for the purpose of meeting expenses of running the Congress party.51

The business model of politics in India benefitting from non-transparent financing demands discretionary power be manipulated or at least converted into an opportunity to seek and secure rent to sustain power.52 The carefully crafted, lengthy and multi-layered Defence Procurement Procedure provides such opportunities to the nexus.53 The delay or wrong doings are conveniently blamed on the beleaguered military. For the politician or bureaucrat, obliging investigating agency conveniently stretches the investigations54 till the accused or main witnesses die a natural death and the case is closed.55 Military men, if implicated, are instantly made sacrificial goat through military system of quick dispensation of justice or injustice.56

Click to buy

The world only respects the power of the gun. When a journalist is beheaded, the USA launches outright attack against the ISIS, the rest of the world takes notice. When an Indian soldier is beheaded by the Pakistan Army, there is no befitting punishing response by India, and the world takes notice. 9/11 happens in USA, war against terror is declared and the perpetrator is culled out and killed on foreign soil through military action, the world takes notice. Attacks on Akshardham and the Parliament, and 26/11 happen, India does not fire even one bullet, the world takes notice. Either India as a nation has lost consciousness or vested interests have cunningly lulled the nation into deep slumber and are filling their own coffers on foreign shores.

In response to India’s Forward Policy and incursions in 1962, Mao Zedong, who had prepared his military as a war winning force, stated: “Rather than being constantly accused of aggression, it’s better to show the world what really happens when China indeed moves its muscles.”57 It is time that the leadership in India learnt a lesson from history and regained its national pride. It is time to build the muscle of the Indian military as a modern war-winning force and surge ahead to become a permanent member of United Nations Security Council or else history will permanently relegate India to a status among the losers.



2. Space exploration, 16 September 2014, Retrived from,

3. Militarisation of space, 10 September 2014, Retrieved from,

4. China National Space Administration, 08 September 2014,Retrieved from,

5. Chinese space program , Retrieved from,

6. ISRO, 09 September 2014, Retrieved from,

7. Satellite Communications for the Warfighter, 23 September 2014, Retrieved from,


9. ibid



12. Ibid

13. Ibid



16. Chris Cole and Jim Wright, What are drones, January 2010,

17. Philip Dorling, 21 July 2013, Retrieved from,

18. ALISSA J. RUBIN, TIM ARANGO and HELENE COOPER, AUG. 8, 2014, Retrieved from,

19. 15 October 2014. Retrieved from,

20. Admiral Joshi says vested interests have stalled reforms in higher defence management.

21. Admiral DK Joshi tells NDTV that the armed forces have been saddled with a dysfunctional and an inefficient business model. 15 October 2014, Retrieved from,


23. Ibid.

24. Hui Zhang, 2005, Retrieved from,

25. New Chinese Threats to U.S. Space Systems Worry Officials , Yasmin Tadjdeh July 2014, USSpaceSystemsWorryOfficials.aspx


27. Toshiki Yazawa, US fears Pearl Harbour in space, 02 June 2014, Retrieved from,

28. Why India should Deploy Dedicated Defence Satellites?, 21 September 2013, Retrieved from,

29. ISRO, eventually however, loaned scientists to DRDO for missile programme.

13 September 2013, Retrieved from,

30. Praveen Swami, The bungle in Kargil, Retrieved from,

31. Debajit Sarkar ,Space Programs, Dec 20, 2011, Retrieved from,

32. Rajat Pandit, India’s first military satellite will help keep tabs on Indian Ocean region, Aug 28, 2013,

33. Retrieved from,

34. MAC is the nodal body at the Centre for sharing intelligence inputs. Retrieved from,

35. With more military-minded man than Nehru, India would have been ready for a counter-attack from China. Retrieved from,

36. Inder Malhotra , October 9, 2014,

37. Lal Bahadur Shastri returned to Pakistan the Haji Pir .Bharat Karnad, October 12, 2014, Retrieved from,

38. Indira Gandhi, instead of imposing a victor’s peace, gave in. Bharat Karnad. Op Cit.

39. The Indian intelligence agencies failed to provide accurate information. Retrieved from,

40. June 17-27 Brajesh Mishra gives Vajpayee’s letter to Clinton aide. US urges Sharif to retreat. Soldier’s hour, 26 July 1999, Retrieved from,

41. Chandra Shekhar stripped the US-authored end of the Kargil War of its triumphalist raiment. Praveen Swami, Retrieved from,

42. Bharat Karnad. Op Cit.

43. Antony is exceedingly misguided by lower-level functionaries of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare. Thus denying grant of benefits to disabled soldiers, all approved by him on file,” says Major Navdeep Singh. Sandeep Unnithan, 07 March, 2014,

44. Forces are not directly involved in the procurement. India’s major defence scams, 15 February 2013, Retrieved from,–20224.html.

45. India’s gigantic but creaky military-industrial complex has been unable to produce new hardware, leaving the services importing 60 per cent of their military needs from abroad. Sandeep Unnithan, 07 March, 2014,

46. In 2007, a committee led by P Rama Rao on the working of DRDO made 28 shocking recommendations which were not shared even with the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Shankkar Aiyar, 17 February 2013, Retrieved from,

47. Jeeps scam, 1948: VK Krishna Menon was embroiled in the controversy became India’s defence minister. The case was closed in 1955. Retrieved from,

48. Westland chopper scam. Rajiv Gandhi forced Pawan Hans to buy 21 helicopters and were eventually discarded as junk. Retrieved from,

49. Bofors scam. Rajiv Gandhi was personally implicated in the scandal in the investigations. Retrieved from,

50. In 1981, the government ordered four HDW submarines from Germany at Rs 465 crore on the basis of a commission of 7 per cent paid. Shankkar Aiyar, Op Cit.

51. Retrieved from,

52. Shankkar Aiyar, Op Cit.

53. Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has extreme slow-moving processes and bribes are paid essentially to circumvent the tedious procedures. Prakash Nandal, 13 March 2014, Retrieved from,

54. Many of the guilty are yet to be punished, either on account of insufficient evidence or lack of political will or both. Retrieved from,

55. While the Bofors case was being investigated, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on 21 May 1991. In 2001, Win Chadha and S.K. Bhatnagar died. Bofors Scandal,

56. On March 15, 2001 within two days of Operation Westend being made public – the army set up a Court of Inquiry and on May 31 recommending action against the guilty. Retrieved from,

57. Retrieved from,

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen AK Chadha

former head of Signal Intelligence Directorate in Defence Intelligence Agency.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left

One thought on “Slice of Outer Space for the Indian Military

  1. good eveining sir. i am cdr mukesh tayal from indian navy currently doing staff college at dssc. very nice article sir. in fact we recently had a talk by DIA on related subjects. sir one query. does any country have capability for keeping sea under surveillance. what i mean is that we will not always have enough number of aircraft for surveillance of indian ocean, which is vast. future is that we use satellites for surveillance of vast areas of ocean. but unlike land areas which are stationary points, sea surveillance means capability to track mobile objects.
    can u throw some light on this sir. regards

More Comments Loader Loading Comments