The successful launching of the Military communication satellite GSAT-7A from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh has added a new space-based dimension to the Indian Air Force (IAF). It will connect all IAF assets like planes, air-borne early warning control platforms, Drones and ground stations, building a centralised network. The significance of the induction of this satellite in IAF is that it will enhance by many times the coverage now provided by ground communication systems such as radars and stations of the Army. Out-of-sight and remote areas where ground infrastructure and signals are difficult will get into the critical information loop. Defence analysts opine that GSAT-7A will be a major force multiplier for the Indian Air Force. They feel that in the network-centric warfare, such type of systems will help achieve full network-centricity. From that perspective, it’s a major value addition to the IAF.
There is no denying the fact that in the present international scenario, Space is emerging as an important arena for future military operations. Information domination through space-based assets will become the key to this pursuit and will shape the outcome of future wars. One of the most important features of space-based system is that it provides global coverage and communication connectivity to allow the defence forces to execute its missions effectively. Ultimately, the exploitation of space by using satellite facilitates real time connectivity between ‘sensors, decision makers, and shooters at geographically separated locations. It may be mentioned that the international legal framework for outer space establishes the principle that space should be used for peaceful purpose. In line with this, all space faring states emphasise the importance of cooperation and peaceful uses of space, but with caveats based on national security concerns.
As per stated national policy, India does not have the interest in any other nation’s territory and is the focused to protect its boundaries and borders. But India cannot remain indifferent to the developments across its borders and in its immediate neighbourhood including Indian Ocean Region. Hence, a satellite exclusively for Indian Air Force was highly needed. GSAT-7A will not only interlink all airbases, but it will also boost the air force’s network-centric warfare capabilities and enhance its global operations. Not only that, it will also help the force upgrade from existing ground control stations to satellite-control of military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The transition will boost the range, endurance and flexibility of UAVs.
In fact, the GSAT-7A has added a much-needed punch to the arsenal of the Indian Air Force. With integrated action being a buzzword it will also support aerial activities of the Army and the Navy where required. The success of GSAT-7A also marks an important milestone in Indian space programme towards achieving self-reliance in launching satellites. Before launching GSAT-7A, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had launched GSAT-7, also called ‘Rukmini’, on September 29, 2013 exclusively for the Indian Navy. ‘Rukmini’ has helped the Navy monitor the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as the satellite has a nearly 2,000 nautical mile ‘footprint’ and provides real-time inputs to Indian warships, submarines and maritime aircraft. The IAF is also likely to get another satellite GSAT-7C, within a few years that will further boost its network-centric operations. The country has a battery of earth-imaging CartoSAT series of satellites and a RadarSAT and a Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite that provide inputs to secure India’s borders. Besides, the country possesses the Regional Satellite Navigation System or NAVIC-a constellation of satellites that, among other things, help in precision guidance of missiles.
In successfully launching the GSAT-7A, ISRO has demonstrated its professionalism in carrying out a mission. There is always a certain amount of nationalism attached to the space mission of a country and the People of India are justifiably proud of the success of the space organization. The Indian Space Research Organisation, which has consistently been contributing in the country’s space research and development, deserves accolades. ISRO has emerged as one of the world’s leading space agencies with a high degree of professional acumen.
Uttam Kumar Biswas, Defence Analyst