WHY INDIA NEEDS A SPACE FORCE ?

On March 27, 2019 India successfully test fired an ASAT ( anti-satellite ) missile, destroying a LEO ( low earth orbit ) satellite at 283 km above earth surface which is code named as ‘ Mission Shakti ’. This puts in India an elite league of four countries in the world who have successfully conducted such kind of experiment.

Yesterday’s three dimensions of war vs todays five dimensions of war

Till the beginning of 21st century war was fought in three dimensions : Land, Water and Airspace; in other words there were mainly three kind of conventional forces Army, Navy and Airforce. But after the beginning of twenty first century, two new domain of warfare started to show its existence. One is Cyber warfare another dimension is Space.

It should be noted that Cyber domain is the only dimension which is presently in the state of active war between countries. Because this is the only dimensions of war where there is no physical casualty and no loss of any physical property. Sometimes, due to confidentiality of information the victim country does not even make it public that it was under attack by other country.

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Indian anti-satellite missile ( Mission Shakti )

Now, coming to space, today space is used as an amenity both for civil and military purpose. As per the international laws, space is forbidden for weaponization i.e, any country is not allowed to put any active or passive weapon system into space orbit. Space should be used as a resource for development of mankind not as a battlefield.

Now the question comes has India violated any international law ?

The answer is : ‘ certainly not ’. India has used a land based BMD ( ballistic missile defense ) system kind of missile system to destroy a satellite high above at 283 km altitude. There is a confusion in internet who developed the ASAT missile, ISRO or DRDO ? It is DRDO scientists who actually developed ASAT missile, but ISRO scientists were in touch with them, to provide necessary help when needed.

How space became a new dimension of warfare ?

There are several thousands of satellites that are in orbit rotating around earth. At the beginning of space exploration mainly earth observing or deep space explorer satellites were sent to space. They are mainly used as a scientific tool to discover more about earth and the universe that we are living in. But countries like USA, Russia etc. ( Including China, India ) started to send spy satellite for information gathering about enemy country’s military installations or tracking ships or submarines etc. Now a days more technologically advanced satellite are used for this purpose which are capable of detecting and tracking the movement of a single person from space.

Apart from military satellite many earth observing satellite, deep space explorer satellite as well as global positioning satellites are also there in space. There are many communication satellites too. These satellites are very important wealth of any country. If someone attack on communication satellites of any country and take it down actively or passively, this can cause a serious problem for that victim county and other countries that are dependent on that satellite. So, not only sending satellite in outer space is necessary but also a country should have the capability to protect it from outer threats. Thus space became an important dimension of warfare.

How many countries have a military space agency ?

There are very few countries in the world which have an active military agency which is solely dedicated for space. These are :

  1. No. 11 group, Royal Air Force, UK
  2. U S Air force Space Command , USA
  3. Russian Space Forces, Russia
  4. People Liberation Army Strategic Support Force, China
  5. Joint Space Command, France
  6. Integrated Space Cell, India ( Now DSA )

These are the agencies which are responsible for defending the space assets of their respective countries.

India’s new Defense Space Agency ( DSA )

Soon after successfully demonstrating the ASAT missile testing which is named as Mission Shakti, on May 15, 2019 India has announced that it is going to set up three new tri-services agencies that is Army, Navy, Air force units under the command of a single person from any of the three military forces.

One is Armed Forces Special Operation Division, which is the country's first tr-services special operation division. It will have elements from Army’s Parachute Regiment Special Forces ( PARA SF ), Navy’s Marine Commandos ( MARCOS ) and Air Force’s Garud Commandos. Ace Special Forces operative and Sri Lanka war veteran Maj Gen AK Dhingra has been appointed as the first head of this division. Another division is a tri-services Cyber Division to tackle the cyber threats.

India also announced to start a new tri-services division Defense Space Agency or DSA to tackle the threats of its space-based assets around the globe. DSA’s headquarter will be at Bengaluru and will be operational from June, 2019. Air Vice Marshal SP Dharkar likely to be its first head. It is also notable that ISRO or Indian Space Research Organization which manages the all the space activity of the country has its headquarter at Bengaluru which is why DSA is also setting up its headquarter there.

Does India need a space force ?

Answer is yes. It is not sufficient to only send satellite in space but also defend those precious space assets from external threats. In January 11, 2007 China also successfully test fired an ASAT missile destroying one of its non-operational weather satellite at an altitude of 865 kilometers above earth surface creating the largest amount of debris ever created due to any outer space mission. At first china didn’t officially confirmed it and kept it secret. But due to international pressure on January 23, 2007 Chinese Foreign Ministry finally confirmed it.

Comparing with India, although India has conducted the experiment at an altitude of 283 km, but according to the scientists it was just a baby step considering the capabilities of the ASAT missile to destroy a satellite at an altitude of 1000 km. The ASAT missile that DRDO developed is a Kinetic Kill Vehicle ( KKV ) or hit-to-kill system which does not have warheads with it. A KKV generally uses its kinetic energy to destroy its targets. But also keeping in mind that the speed at which it hit that satellite, its can used as a BMD system which could be capable of destroying a ballistic missile in its ascending phase.

However, keeping the threats from China and some other countries in mind India should pursue a dedicated space force to safeguard its space based assets. But only ASAT missile will not be enough, India also needs passive destruction technologies like LASER beams attack, electromagnetic system jamming, cyber attack etc. for proper deterrence against its threats. ASAT technology is a great steps towards India’s goal to have a space defence capability and DSA is also a good steps towards making a proper space force in distant future.

Data Sources: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3711/1
https://spacenews.com/op-ed-india-needs-its-own-space-force/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Chinese_anti-satellite_missile_test
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Indian_anti-satellite_missile_test
https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/indian-army-navy-air-force-1525212-2019-05-15

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