Enemy can go ‘deaf, blind’

NEW DELHI: India’s Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test conducted and declared on Wednesday now provides the ability to render an enemy country ‘deaf and blind’. In case satellites are destroyed, it would be near impossible for the enemy to fire long-range missiles and UAVs; and even its routine communication can be stalled.

Enemy can go ‘deaf, blind’

A Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor missile being launched by DRDO from Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha. PTI

rchopra@tribunemail.com

Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 27

India’s Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test conducted and declared on Wednesday now provides the ability to render an enemy country ‘deaf and blind’ by targeting communication, military and surveillance satellites.

In case satellites are destroyed, it would be near impossible for the enemy to fire long-range missiles and UAVs; and even its routine communication can be stalled.

The significance of Wednesday’s ASAT test is that India has successfully demonstrated its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology. The test was done using a ground-fired ballistic missile defence system to hit at an Indian satellite. The test does not violate any existing international treaties and is not directed at any country.

The China angle

China has conducted three such tests since 2007, the latest being in February 2018. India despite being a ‘missile power’ and space power was reticent. The US Department of Defence, in its annual report to the Congress ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018’, says, “China is developing multiple counter-space capabilities to degrade and deny adversary use of space-based assets during a crisis or conflict.”

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is acquiring a range of technologies to improve China’s counter-space capabilities. In addition to the development of directed energy weapons and satellite jammers, China is also developing direct-ascent and co-orbital kinetic kill capabilities and has probably made progress on the anti-satellite missile system it tested, the US report said.

India will be an insider now

Former DRDO chairman VK Saraswat had claimed in 2012 that India had ASAT capability. In October 2014–just five months into his tenure--Prime Minister Narendra Modi had advised top Indian military commanders about the criticality of controlling activities in space. 

Addressing commanders of the three armed services, Modi had said: “Control of space may become as critical as that of land, air and sea.” As full-scale wars might become rare, force would remain an instrument of deterrence and influencing behaviour, and the duration of conflicts would be shorter,” Modi had said.

Time was running out for India to declare itself as an ASAT power to join the US, Russia and China. The United Nations Conference on Disarmament is discussing a new treaty banning militarisation of space. Once the treaty is done and had India not carried out the ASAT test it would put New Delhi at a serious disadvantage, as it would then only be able to negotiate on such a new treaty as an “outsider” rather than an “insider” with ASAT capability.

Types of ASAT options

A way to demonstrate the ASAT capability without causing debris would be to do a fly-by test, where the ground-based direct ascent missile will fly by the targeted satellite without destroying it. The other option is by jamming satellites using space-based lasers. This method falls under the category of “soft-kill” methods and does not create debris.

Status of banning ASAT

The ‘Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects’ and generally referred to as ‘PPWT’ is still being discussed. China and Russia had submitted an update to their original 2008 proposal in June. The US has objected to the lack of a verification mechanism and no restrictions on the development and stockpiling of ASAT weapons on the ground. That means, a nation could develop a readily deployable space-based weapons break-out capability.

The PPWT bans the placement of weapons in outer space; it does not ban “direct-ascent” ASATs launched from the ground. India used the same ground-to-space weapon.


Beijing guarded in its reaction

Beijing: China on Wednesday reacted guardedly to India’s anti-satellite missile test and expressed hope that all countries will uphold peace and tranquillity in the outer space. The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a written response, said: “We have noticed reports and hope that each country will uphold peace and tranquillity in outer space.” PTI

Don’t militarise outer space: Pak  

Islamabad: Pakistan said on Wednesday that it was against militarisation of outer space and took a swipe at India's announcement of shooting down a live satellite with a missile. “Space is the common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarisation of this arena," Foreign Office spokesperson said. PTI

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