Article by Mr Ankit Kumar
Military satellites are satellites that are primarily used for military purposes, such as surveillance, reconnaissance, communication, navigation, and weather monitoring. They are owned and operated by military organizations, including defence departments, intelligence agencies, and other government bodies as satellites are dual-use in nature meaning they can be used by both civilian and military organisations of a given country.
Communication is essential to the success of military operations, therefore, it is often referred to as the backbone of the military. It helps to coordinate troops, plan operations, maintain situational awareness, improve safety, support decision-making, and boost morale. Military satellites provide secure and reliable communication links for military forces, allowing them to transmit voice, data, and video information to and from different parts of the world which is essential for mission success. Therefore, the role of satellite-based military communications is becoming important, especially with the introduction of an end number of sensors to the battlefield under the C4ISR concept.
WHY DEDICATED COMMUNICATION SATELLITES FOR THE MILITARY?
Military communication satellites offer several advantages over other forms of communication for military forces. Here are some of the main advantages:
Secure communication: Military communication satellites provide secure and encrypted communication links that are protected from interception or eavesdropping by hostile forces. This is essential for ensuring the confidentiality of military communications and maintaining operational security.
Global coverage: Military communication satellites can provide communication coverage across the entire globe, including remote or hostile environments where other forms of communication may not be possible. This is particularly important for military forces operating in expeditionary or multinational missions.
High bandwidth: Military communication satellites can provide high-bandwidth communication links that allow for the transmission of large amounts of data, including video, images, and other intelligence information. This enables military forces to share critical information in real-time, improving situational awareness and decision-making.
Flexibility: Military communication satellites can be repositioned and redirected to meet changing military requirements, providing a high degree of flexibility and adaptability for military operations.
Overall, the satellites play a critical role in providing secure and reliable communication links for military forces, enabling them to operate effectively and efficiently in a range of environments and situations.
CURRENT MILITARY COMMUNICATION SATELLITES OF INDIA
India currently has 3 operational dedicated communication satellites for military purposes currently in service apart from several dual purpose satellites.
Launched in 2013, GSAT-7 (INSAT-4F) is a dedicated military communication satellite that operates in the UHF, S, and Ku bands. It was designed to provide real-time communication between naval ships, submarines, aircraft, and ground stations. The satellite has a coverage area of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and extends up to 2,000 km from the Indian coastline. The satellite can simultaneously support communications of more than 50 naval ships and aircrafts across both Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. This satellite removed India’s dependence upon foreign satellites like Inmarsat. GSAT-7 was designed to enhance the network-centric warfare capabilities of the Indian Navy. It enables real-time secure communication between naval assets, including ships, submarines, and aircraft, and facilitates interoperability with other military forces. Overall, GSAT-7 Rukmini is a significant asset for the Indian armed forces, providing reliable, secure, and uninterrupted communication capabilities, which are essential for modern warfare.
Launched in 2015, GSAT-6 is another dedicated military communication satellite that operates in the S-band frequency. It provides communication capabilities to the Indian armed forces in remote and border areas. Initially it was to be a dual use satellite but after the ISRO-Devas deal fell through, Indian Armed Forces has been the sole user and DRDO developed and deployed dedicated ground station for the same.
The Deva’s deal controversy had no impact on the functioning of GSAT-6, which has continued to provide communication services to the Indian armed forces as planned. The Indian armed forces use GSAT-6 for a range of communication needs, including voice, video, and data communication, as well as for navigation and reconnaissance purposes. The satellite’s national beam also provides communication services for civilian applications, such as telemedicine, disaster management, and education required in frontline states of India.
Overall, GSAT-6 is a vital asset for the Indian armed forces, providing reliable and secure communication capabilities in remote and border areas, where traditional communication networks may not be available or may be unreliable. The satellite enhances the network-centric warfare capabilities of the Indian armed forces and enables them to carry out their operations more efficiently and effectively.
GSAT 7A (Angry Bird)
GSAT 7A is 1st dedicated communication satellite for Indian Air force. It’s 30% capacity is currently used by Indian Army Aviation. Launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 2018, it a geostationary satellite that operates in the Ku-band frequency range. It has several advanced features, including a high data rate communication link, which enables real-time communication between aircraft, ground stations, and other platforms. The satellite’s footprint covers the Indian subcontinent and the surrounding ocean regions. GSAT-7A enhances the IAF’s network-centric warfare capabilities by providing secure and reliable communication links for strategic and tactical operations. The satellite enables real-time situational awareness, which is essential for modern warfare. Early warning through AWACS, ISR through UAVs and 2nd strike capability through fighter jets, GSAT 7A plays an important role in today’s IAF.
India will be replacing and augmenting its dedicated military communication satellite constellation in the coming years to keep up with the evolving threats. These include:
- GSAT 7R: This satellite is a replacement satellite for GSAT 7 Rukmini satellite of Indian Navy. The satellite is projected to cost ₹1,589 crores (US$225.5 million). It is currently projected to be launched by January 2024 on-board GSLV MK2 rocket of ISRO.
- GSAT 7B: This satellite will be 1st dedicated communication satellite for Indian Army. The defence ministry recently signed a ₹3,100-crore contract with New Space India Limited (NSIL) for GSAT-7B, an advanced communication satellite. It will work in conjunction with Akash Teer system of Indian army to transform the Army into truly integrated and network centric warfare capable force.
- GSAT 7C: It will be IAF’s 2nd operational communication satellite and will work simultaneously along with GSAT 7A to provide services to IAF. It will facilitate real-time connectivity of the IAF’s software-defined radios (SDRs). 2,236 crore rupees will be approximately spent on the mission.
- Possible replacement of GSAT 6A: India has launched GSAT 6A satellite to but it failed to become operational. In coming years India can aim to send a replacement satellite which can also take over the roles of GSAT 6 which is currently operational.
With the development of Anti-Satellite weapons, space based assets have come under a possible threat of being taken down in any conflict. China can also transfer its ASAT weapons to Pakistan which can create further issues for India. Therefore it’s necessary that India maintains ready to launch backup satellites on ground and launch on demand rocket capability to replace such a loss in a conflict. India is already working towards such capability. Further communication satellites are usually beyond 30,000 km altitude, thereby reducing any possible threats to it from ASAT ground based weapons. Space based assets are now a necessity and India will continue to work to develop capabilities to support its defence forces. [End]