Eye on China, India set to kickstart 1st space war drill
The Indian armed forces are all set to conduct the country’s first-ever simulated space warfare exercise this week, which will lead to an assessment of the “imminent threats” in the expanse beyond earth and the drafting of a joint space doctrine for futuristic battles.The tri-Service integrated defence staff (IDS) under the defence ministry is conducting the two-day “IndSpaceEx”, with all military and scientific stakeholders on Thursday and Friday, in the backdrop of China’s rapidly expanding space and counter-space capabilities.
TOI was the first to report that such an exercise was being planned after India successfully tested an anti-satellite (A-Sat) interceptor missile to destroy the 740-kg Microsat-R satellite, at an altitude of 283-km in the low earth orbit (LEO), in a “hit-to-kill mode” under “Mission Shakti” on March 27 this year.
With China developing a wide array of A-Sat weapons, both kinetic in the shape of co-orbital killer satellites and direct ascent missiles as well as non-kinetic ones like lasers and electro-magnetic pulse weapons, officials say India has no option but to develop deterrence capabilities to ensure no adversary can threaten its assets in outer-space.
“PM Narendra Modi said the A-Sat test in March was conducted to make India stronger and more secure as well as further peace and harmony. In line with this vision, IndSpaceEx is being conducted to identify key challenges and shortfalls if a conflict escalates to the space dimension. A leading IIT has also been engaged to work on the potential solutions,” said a senior official.
Though India for long has had an expansive civilian space programme, as was once again demonstrated by the successful launch of the Chandrayaan-2 mission on Monday, it largely restricted military use of space to intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, communication and navigation.
The A-Sat test as well as the recent approval for the tri-Service Defence Space Agency, even though the armed forces were demanding a full-fledged Space Command, signifies the crossing of that self-imposed threshold for developing offensive space capabilities.
“There is the need to explore effective tactical, operational and strategic exploitation of the final frontier of warfare. We cannot keep twiddling our thumbs while China zooms ahead. We cannot match China but must have capabilities to protect our space assets,” said another official.
Not only can an adversary’s counter-space weapons take out India’s assets critical for its economic and social infrastructure, but they can also “blind and deafen” the Indian armed forces by destroying or jamming satellites vital for surveillance, communication, missile early-warning and precision-targeting. “China, after all, has developed both soft and hard-kill space weapons,” he added.