With A-SAT test, India takes leap in space defence: Mission Shakti can nullify Chinese cyber attacks at time of war



Image result for pics of Israeli Ofeq satellite

[Indian LEO satellite may look like this Israeli Ofeq-3]

The successful culmination of the programme to test-prove India’s anti-satellite weapon capability — Mission Shakti — was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday. He informed the nation of a “live” low earth orbit (LEO) satellite being blown in space with a direct hit. It vaults the country into an exclusive club of now four countries boasting of such wherewithal.

This is the second but still infant step taken by India in the realm of space warfare. The first step, though still incomplete — in a plan that will eventually obtain for India a constellation of 13-15 LEO and high earth orbit (HEO) satellites, to cover the Indian landmass and the extended region bounded by the Indian Ocean, the Caspian Sea, the Central Asian Republics, Southeast Asia and China — is to provide India with its very own Global Positioning System (GPS). This will be a major capability upgrade for the country in the space warfare realm.

With A-SAT test, India takes leap in space defence: Mission Shakti can nullify Chinese cyber attacks at time of war

An Indian GPS will preclude India’s dependence on the American GPS or Russian GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) which has cost the country plenty in the past and can prove disastrous in a future war. It may be recalled that the second test of the Agni missile in the early 1990s failed. What is not widely known is that it did so, in the main, because the US GPS it was relying on “blinked” at a crucial moment just when the missile was pulling a critical manoeuvre. It provided a lesson the Indian government seems unwilling to learn that to rely on the US or any other big power for critical technical assistance is to be foolhardy.

In any case, it spurred the Indian government to do the right thing: launch a bunch of satellites to secure the country its own GPS — pivotal for minute or major course correction in order to guide missiles accurately to distant targets.

The anti-satellite weapon is, in some ways, the flip side of GPS. If the latter denotes civilian-cum-military utility, an A-SAT weapon represents a purely offensive military capability. It can take out the adversary state’s GPS and disrupt its internal communications traffic and the working of its financial market and, otherwise, centrally hurt its economy — and all this by simply destroying the enemy’s satellites and their various sensors and voiding their role as telecommunications nodes.

Further, A-SAT strikes can nullify the usual space-based cyber attacks which, according to Chinese strategists, constitute the first stage of “comprehensive war”.

The LEO satellite that was successfully targeted is one of the earliest sent up and was nearing the end of its useful life. The LEO satellites India has launched have been built in technical collaboration with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) specialising in the Ofeq (Hebrew for horizon) satellites, small-sized platforms with onboard sensors capable of high-resolution imagery. LEO satellites are particularly useful in “seeing” and mapping the enemy’s side of the battlefield – its major force dispositions, etc, and can be the principal source of tactical information in war or peacetime. The significance of the Indian A-SAT hitting an LEO satellite is precisely to signal China that the PLA forces can be blinded because Chinese LEO satellites can now be preemptively destroyed.

The Indian A-SAT is derived from the country’s anti-ballistic missile defence system featuring Prithvi missiles that are supposed to shoot down incoming missiles with two-shot probability — the first shot fired in the exo-atmospheric regime which if it fails triggers the second shot in the endo-atmospheric milieu. But, ballistic missile defence is workable as a concept but not in real life, because too many BMD batteries will be needed to bring down even a few enemy missiles. A-SAT, on the other hand, is a handy means of keeping a leash on the Chinese over-the-horizon military capabilities.

This brings the game around a whole circle because India’s A-SAT development was prioritised after China first demonstrated its capacity to destroy satellites and space-based platforms with a kinetic-kill vehicle in 2007.


This was first published in Firstpost.com March 27, 2019, at https://www.firstpost.com/india/with-a-sat-test-india-takes-leap-in-space-defence-mission-shakti-can-nullify-chinese-cyber-attacks-at-time-of-war-6338251.html

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Central Asia, China, China military, Cyber & Space, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Ocean, indian policy -- Israel, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Intelligence, Iran and West Asia, Israel, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Missiles, satellites, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons, West Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to With A-SAT test, India takes leap in space defence: Mission Shakti can nullify Chinese cyber attacks at time of war

  1. vivek says:

    i dont think its any great achievement to shoot satellite just 300km above . Most of gps and military satellite operates at much higher alt >=20k kms. It would be better if we could have done mirv test, which is pending since long time.

  2. Bharat kumar says:

    This comes right after modi’s nuclear drama with pakistan … Does this misguide nasr, shaheen missiles trajectory to nullify them…

  3. Bharat kumar says:

    Russia has leased akula 2 nuclear sub…are they willing to co develop brahmos 2? so many delays… you previously mentioned it is in post development stage..

  4. The delay is due to indecision at the Indian end.

  5. feroplayer says:

    Sir, two questions.
    1. Since ASAT is an emerging threat, where it is placed on escalation matrix, like we have for conventional and nuclear threats ? (Will it be viewed in terms of disabling civil infrastructure or depend on the type of satellite hit ?)
    2. Since it’s a derivative of Exo BMD of India, do we have indigenous radars capable of tracking inclination changes of satellites in real time? I am guessing we would need powerful radars for higher LEO & MEO orbits ?

    • You have guessed right on the 2nd issue. And shooting down an LEO satellite is a tripwire, for what is not clear, but it would depend on the contingency.

      • San says:

        Dr Karnad, should we not look into developing satellites for Very Low Earth Orbits (<200km), which would use active propulsion (ion thrust) to keep them aloft by countering atmospheric friction? Satellites in such Very Low Earth Orbits would have better ground imaging resolution, lower communication latency, and would be safe from orbital debris created by ASATs, since such debris would quickly fall out of orbit due to atmospheric friction.

      • Ion thruster is a great idea but, not sure ISRO has a project to develop one.

  6. andy says:

    Awesome Tejas display at Lima

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.