“Space is the final frontier that India must conquest, if it has to rightfully emerge as a leading economic and military powerhouse.”
The chinese were the first to develop a rocket in around 1212 AD. In 1883, a Russian schoolmaster, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, first explained the mechanics of how a rocket could fly into space. On 03 Oct 1942, German scientists launched an A-4 rocket, which travelled a distance of 190 km and reached an altitude of over 80 km. Orbital operations started with Soviet Sputnik-1 satellite in 1957. Military use of space started with the launch of an American reconnaissance (recce) satellite in 1960. Since then, military roles and missions utilising space have developed along the lines that air power took in the early twentieth century. Intelligence and space operations came first, followed by offensive and defensive roles. Presently, the space activities are mainly devoted towards reconnaissance, communications, weather assessment and navigation. The development of anti-satellite (ASAT) technologies creates an environment in which civil and military satellites will increasingly come under risk of attack from hostile nations.
By its combined military and space technology, India would be required to contain regional conflicts and prevent unscrupulous exploitation of the Indian Ocean region.
The move from earth to space transits is through the air environment, thereby inherently bringing about a linkage as no space launch or recovery can take place without transiting through the air medium. Any differentiation between the two would be superficial and indefinable. In future, the air and space mediums would provide a seamless environment where Trans Atmospheric Vehicles (TAVs) and re-usable hypersonic vehicles could exploit it freely. In addition, with increased proliferation of Ballistic Missiles and development of potent nuclear warheads, there is a need to extend the current Air Defence capabilities to space to ensure that the threats emanating from the air and space environment can be effectively tackled. The mission of the Indian Air Force should be to defend India through the control and exploitation of air and space.
Roles and Missions of Space Based Assets
Military roles and missions from space could involve the following:-
- Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). BMD is the defensive measures taken to intercept ballistic missiles using space.
- Space Control. Space Control operations are those that help in providing freedom of action in space for friendly forces while denying the same to the enemy.
- Force Application. The application of force consists of attacks against terrestrial targets carried out by space based weapons.
- Psychological Operations. Psychological operations are operations designed to bring about changes in the attitude and behaviour of people.
This includes activities related to Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Communication, Navigation, Weather forecasting, Ocean Surveillance and mapping, ELINT, Early Warning and Search & Rescue.
In order to ensure that in future our increased dependence on space does not become a vulnerability, defending space based assets should be an important component of our national security.
India’s Security Environment
In our region, there exists a plethora of space institutions, launch complexes, space based assets, Space Command and Control centres and global space tracking networks. Developments are taking place to put heavy payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geo-synchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) in the near future. The long term plans of our neighbours include maintaining space stations and manufacturing reusable space shuttles.
These capabilities are complemented by a number of surface to surface cruise and ballistic missiles. Ballistic missiles are unmanned guided weapon delivery platforms with one or more rocket stages. During most of their flight path, missile warhead traverses a free flight ballistic trajectory, which for longer range missiles remains above the atmosphere for an extended duration of time. The ranges of these missiles extend from 180 km to over 13000 Km. Our neighbours have the potential to strike at any vital asset of our nation accurately and with little warning. Coupled with potent nuclear weapons, this Ballistic Missile capability portends serious connotations. India’s stated policy of ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons also makes it incumbent that an effective defence against SSMs be put in place.