India flexes its muscle in space

Dr Sudershan Kumar
27th march 2019 witnessed a historic milestone when our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on television, radio and social media declared the successful completion of “Mission Shakti” where a missile shot down a live satellite in low earth orbit. This extraordinary feat promulgated the immense capability of our DRDO’s scientists and made the nation proud of their achievement in the most advanced and critical field of research (i.e. space weapons) and also put the whole world in awe. India has now entered into a super league of three nations i.e. United States, Russia and China. Under this “Mission Shakti” DRDO scientists conducted a test in which through their missile they could shoot down a satellite at an altitude of around 300 km. This mission dissipates a very significant message to the world fraternity that India is now a super power in space too but simultaneously does not aim to antagonize any nation.Besides shooting down a low earth orbit satellite does not breach any inter national laws. This mission is aimed to further give impetus to our security interests. The precision of this highly complex mission has been impeccable and conducted at an extremely high speed . Target destroyed was an out of service Indian satellite. The other countries in this series, who have conducted these tests are USA, Russia and China. In fact US had conducted their tests way back in 1959, thereafter USSR(Now Russia) conducted similar tests in the year 1960 and 1971. Subsequently China in 2007 destroyed a satellite on similar patterns. The present scenario where in, weaponisation of the outer space has gained momentum attributing its key role in maintaining the security of the nations and also its multifold applications in many other military and civil arenas. The history itself reverberates the attraction of the erstwhile superpowers , the USA and USSR, towards space who looked upon space to venture into it even in the late twentieth century for accomplishing the so called five traditional missions of reconnaissance, surveillance, communication, navigation, meteorology, geology. Furthermore, other than these arenas, in multiple other areas , the use of the above technology can also be envisaged. Firstly, the space based sensors can be an important tool to seek out direct attack on mobile targets, such as the air defence, radars, mobile missiles and mobile (even air borne) commands posts. Secondly and the most importantly, they are very handy to assess the damage caused to an opponent from an initial nuclear strike and restrike what ever targets left over. Thirdly, the use of satellite navigation can facilitate reduction in missile guidance error to ten’s of feet rather hundreds of feet, ushering in the trend of usable low yield strategic nuclear weapons and even non nuclear strategic weapons.
The above factors have led to the space becoming an area for weaponization with amalgamation of most continuous evolving advanced and critical space technologies. Although in 1967, Nation Space treaty largely defines the activities of space for explorations and use of outer space. But over the years many countries have launched a large number of satellites. As per the latest information available there are around 20,000 satellites and out of which 635 are rotating around the earth. The use of these satellites can be ascertained by the 1991 Gulf war where United States depended heavily on space for intelligence sharing and 70 to 80 percent for communication purpose. This aspect was well analyzed by Chinese experts. Since then the PLA is giving a lot of thrust in this field to counter United States. Hence China’s 2007 test of shooting satellite was first step in this direction. As per unconfirmed reports China has already initiated programme for development of Anti Satellite weapon (ASW).Test conducted by China in 2013 using Dong Neng 2 missile was a significant step in this direction.Although the countries are working towards a treaty but future weaponry both conventional and non-conventional will be controlled through the space based objects. In the backdrop of the above sequence of events, and various issues pertaning to national security amidst hostile neighbour, the test conducted under Mission Shakti by DRDO scientists under the chairmanship of Dr.Satish Reddy assumes lot of significance. This also proves to the world, beyond a doubt that the Indian scientists have the capability, capacity and competence (C3) to develop any of the critical technologies which is imperative for safeguarding our nation’s sovereignty and integrity. Moreover, a well acquainted fact is that no country would share any of their front line technology with India. These technologies of this nature have to be developed indigenously and our scientists are fully proficient and competent for all endeavours. The history endorses this fact as when the western world imposed sanctions on DRDO, DAE and ISRO especially after 1998 nuclear tests and refused to offer technologies to sabotage our programs, our scientists came out strongly and have developed cost effective technologies at their own. Whether it was in the field of nuclear science, space or defence. Moreover, the entire world acknowledges that DRDO has designed developed and successfully deployed a wide variety of tactical and strategic missile systems and also paved the way for self sufficiency in critical missile systems and technologies. The series of successful tests of missiles and guided weapons further enhanced the strike capability of our armed forces. Besides quick reaction surface to air missile (QRSAM), long range guided bombs, successful post Induction flight tests of diversified Missile systems including Agni-1, Agni-2, Agni-3, Prithvi, Dhanush, Brahmos, Akash demonstrated the efficacy and reliability of the weapon system boosting the confidence of our armed forces and reaffirmed the indigenous guided weapon capability of our country. DRDO has also successfully demonstrated
Exo(PDV) and Endo(AAD) atmospheric induction capabilities. Interceptor mission achieved a milestone by directly hitting the target. The successful demonstration of target engagement in two layers has led us to an elite group of nations that possess missile defence technologies. As part of the BMD programme, many advanced R&D tests facilities have been established by DRDO scientists.
More over shooting of moving satellite at an altitude of 300kms through Anti Satellite weapon ‘A-Sat a Completely Desi Baby'( developed with complete Indigenous Technology) was an important milestone in the history of missile technology. This accomplishment of DRDO scientists can be compared to that of 1998 nuclear tests. Both these events have similarity in a way that the 1998 event made India a part of select group of nuclear power nations, where as, through MISSION SHAKTI India joins the league of super three nations namely United States, Russia and China. This even sends stern message to our adversaries that India can not be cowed down with nuclear bogey/nuclear threats. India has the capability and technology to deal with such threats. The conduct and demonstration of A Sat has clearly illustrated that any satellite can be intercepted ,destroyed and blinded. Hence DRDO scientists deserve full compliments from 1.3 billion Indians whom they have made proud through their unmatched and unparalleled achievement.
(The author is former Director General & special Secretary DRDO, MoD GoI)