Source: http://www.indiandefencereview.com/?p=176The Final Frontier
By Gp Capt AS Bahal, VM
Issue: Vol 20.4 "Space is the final frontier that India must conquest, if it has to rightfully emerge as a leading economic and military powerhouse."
The chinese were the first to develop a rocket in around 1212 AD. In 1883, a Russian schoolmaster, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, first explained the mechanics of how a rocket could fly into space. On 03 Oct 1942, German scientists launched an A-4 rocket, which travelled a distance of 190 km and reached an altitude of over 80 km. Orbital operations started with Soviet Sputnik-1 satellite in 1957. Military use of space started with the launch of an American reconnaissance (recce) satellite in 1960. Since then, military roles and missions utilising space have developed along the lines that air power took in the early twentieth century. Intelligence and space operations came first, followed by offensive and defensive roles. Presently, the space activities are mainly devoted towards reconnaissance, communications, weather assessment and navigation. The development of anti-satellite (ASAT) technologies creates an environment in which civil and military satellites will increasingly come under risk of attack from hostile nations.
The move from earth to space transits is through the air environment, thereby inherently bringing about a linkage as no space launch or recovery can take place without transiting through the air medium. Any differentiation between the two would be superficial and indefinable. In future, the air and space mediums would provide a seamless environment where Trans Atmospheric Vehicles (TAVs) and re-usable hypersonic vehicles could exploit it freely. In addition, with increased proliferation of Ballistic Missiles and development of potent nuclear warheads, there is a need to extend the current Air Defence capabilities to space to ensure that the threats emanating from the air and space environment can be effectively tackled. The mission of the Indian Air Force should be to defend India through the control and exploitation of air and space.Roles and Missions of Space Based Assets
Military roles and missions from space could involve the following:-Combat RolesBallistic Missile Defence (BMD)
. BMD is the defensive measures taken to intercept ballistic missiles using space. Space Control
. Space Control operations are those that help in providing freedom of action in space for friendly forces while denying the same to the enemy. Force Application
. The application of force consists of attacks against terrestrial targets carried out by space based weapons. Psychological Operations
. Psychological operations are operations designed to bring about changes in the attitude and behaviour of people. Space Support
This includes activities related to Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Communication, Navigation, Weather forecasting, Ocean Surveillance and mapping, ELINT, Early Warning and Search & Rescue.India's Security Environment
In our region, there exists a plethora of space institutions, launch complexes, space based assets, Space Command and Control centres and global space tracking networks. Developments are taking place to put heavy payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geo-synchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) in the near future. The long term plans of our neighbours include maintaining space stations and manufacturing reusable space shuttles.
These capabilities are complemented by a number of surface to surface cruise and ballistic missiles. Ballistic missiles are unmanned guided weapon delivery platforms with one or more rocket stages. During most of their flight path, missile warhead traverses a free flight ballistic trajectory, which for longer range missiles remains above the atmosphere for an extended duration of time. The ranges of these missiles extend from 180 km to over 13000 Km. Our neighbours have the potential to strike at any vital asset of our nation accurately and with little warning. Coupled with potent nuclear weapons, this Ballistic Missile capability portends serious connotations. India's stated policy of `no first use' of nuclear weapons also makes it incumbent that an effective defence against SSMs be put in place.
In our context, flight times of missiles to targets could vary from 10 min to 30 min, depending on the location of the launch site and that of the intended target system. Quick detection and interception becomes mandatory to neutralise these missiles in time. 99 percent of atmosphere hovers within 20 miles of Earth. Rockets are required to go above 28 miles of altitude. The SSMs have three important phases of flight; boost phase, cruise phase and terminal attack phase. The major portion of boost and terminal phase is endo-atmospheric and cruise phase is exo-atmospheric. Therefore, the Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems designed would need to tackle the ballistic missiles in all the three phases of flight and hence would require an integrated AD network that includes air and space fusion.
The defence against ballistic missiles would include capability to detect the launch of these missiles, tracking them in all the phases of their flight using ground based radars/space based systems and engage and destroy the missiles either in the boost phase (endo-atmospheric), as close to the launch site as possible or in cruise phase (exo-atmospheric) or destroy the missile in the terminal phase (endo or exo-atmospheric). During the missile launch and boost phase, the SSMs have large infra red signatures. Therefore, Early Warning satellites are required to detect and track their launches. During cruise phase, the target's temperature closely resembles that of its surroundings, hence detection cannot be effected through detection of IR signature. Different forms of surveillance systems are required to track the missile's path such as ground based X Band radars and Phased Array Upgraded Early Warning Radars (UEWRs).
The technologies presently operationalised are able to provide defence against SSMs only in their terminal stages of attack and that too they are mostly endo-atmospheric. In Mar 2005, the US Govt offered India advanced version of PAC-2 with radar and engagement system used by PAC-3 missiles and Israel Aircraft Industries offered Arrow-2 Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) technology. The function of Aerospace Defence requires a synergistic integration between the endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric capabilities for all incoming threats utilising air and space environment. The atmospheric capabilities are already in place with the IAF, but there is a need to integrate the existing and potential space based capabilities for comprehensive air and space defence of the nation.Aerospace Assets and India
President APJ Kalam has stated that accomplishments in space have traditionally been a barometer of international status, technological prowess and enhanced military capability. Rapid advancements in Information Technology, Internet and Communications are increasingly utilising space based assets. These assets play a decisive role in shaping the outcome of conflicts and are engines that drive economic growths. India and China are likely to be the economic powerhouses of the 21st Century. India is also emerging as a key balancer of Asian stability. By its combined military and space technology, India would be required to contain regional conflicts and prevent unscrupulous exploitation of the Indian Ocean region.
There are 800 active satellites orbiting the earth. The number is expected to grow to 2000 by 2010. India itself is planning to launch Cartosat-2/2A/2B, RISAT-2, INSAT 4A/4B/4C/4D/4E, INSAT-3D, SRE-1, GSAT-4, GSAT (MK-III) and Chandrayan ASTROSAT by 2008. The worldwide revenue from the space sector alone is likely to increase from $800 bn to $3 trillion by 2015. As military and economic power becomes more dependent on space based capabilities, the potential for attack on these capabilities would increase. This would be a low cost covert option for an adversary to inflict damage to our economic and military strengths.
Analysis of the use of space by US and allied forces during Gulf war 1991, Kosovo operations 1999, Op Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom in 2003 clearly indicates that decisive victories were achieved due to synergistic integration of space based applications especially those related to the employment of airpower. These applications included surveillance; reconnaissance, navigation, secure communications and GPS assisted precision targeting. An opponent possessing even rudimentary anti-satellite capabilities can exert a vast influence on the conduct of warfare. Such capabilities in the hands of Iraq and Serbia would have significantly reduced the asymmetry that the allied forces enjoyed during these conflicts.
Taking lessons from these operations, secret development of anti-satellite weapons is taking place in our neighbourhood. An ASAT weapon called "Parasitic Satellite" has completed ground testing and plans are afoot to conduct its testing in space. These nano satellites could be covertly attached to friendly orbiting satellites. During conflict situations, commands could be sent to these parasitic satellites that would cause interference with the host satellites' functioning or even lead to its destruction. Small satellites could also be used as space mines that maintain orbital position in the vicinity of their target satellite. Developments are also taking place in High Energy Lasers (HEL) that could be used against satellites in LEO. The laser illumination could cause loss of power due to solar cell degradation or even affect the highly sensitive infra red and CCD detectors in the same band.
In order to ensure that in future our increased dependence on space does not become a vulnerability, defending space based assets should be an important component of our national security. There is also a need to evolve doctrines and procedures for improving space situational awareness and in co-ordinating manoeuvring of satellites in the event that evasive action needs to be taken.
Indian Space Capability and Present Limitations
In 1963, a small sounding rocket facility was set up at Thumba. In 1972, the GOI set up a Space Commission and Department of Space (DOS) to promote development of space technology. The DOS is responsible for the execution of space activities through Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). DOS and ISRO provide overall direction to a number of ISRO centres including Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, ISAC, SHAR, Space Applications Centre, ISTRAC, DECU, NRSA, PRL etc.
Indian space programme is directed towards achieving self reliance in the use of space technology for socio-economic development. Its main thrust includes satellite communications for civil and military applications and remote sensing. The Indian space capability provides high-resolution imagery, telecommunications, TV broadcasting, Meteorological Forecasting, Disaster Warning, Satellite aided Search and Rescue and ability to place satellites in Polar or Geo-stationary orbits. These functions are essentially used for promoting mass literacy, communication, education and survey and management of natural resources. However, their present military usage within the armed forces is limited to Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
The only military organisation that has major operational links with space based assets is Defence Image Processing and Analysis Centre (DIPAC). It was set up to provide essential peacetime inputs to create a terrain and intelligence database. Its essential functions include collection, collation, analysis and dissemination of imagery obtained through remote sensing satellites. DIPAC is focussed essentially towards operationalising the ISR function. It does not co-ordinate and control other space applications like BMD, Space control, Force Application, Psychological Operations, Communications, Navigation, SIGINT, Early Warning and Search and Rescue. It also does not integrate space applications with air power employment and does not address our other future needs besides ISR. There is, therefore, a need for an organisation that co-ordinates such activities.
In the present context, airpower has taken a leading role in the conduct of multi-dimensional operations. Offensive capability of an airpower could be significantly enhanced by providing space based real-time intelligence, accurate weather forecasting, navigation aids, GPS assisted all weather precision targeting and secure communications. These are currently not available with the IAF. The best examples of airpower employment include Kosovo and Iraq conflicts. In Kosovo, airpower was the only military instrument that was used coercively to further coalition interests. Precision and all weather air attacks assisted by space-based assets were major force multipliers. Compare this capability with Kargil operations. The former was a high technology war, wherein all the facilities of navigation, guidance, surveillance and secure communications were available to friendly airpower and the latter was a war fought with World War II tactics that lacked basic integration with key space based applications that make air power radically combat effective.
When coupled with secure communications and reduced sensor to shooter time, air attacks have virtually curtailed the freedom of surface forces to manoeuvre, thereby, seriously degrading their offensive potential. This enhanced Aerospace capability provides strong strategic deterrence to all types of hostile intent. It further assumes significance in a nuclear environment where territorial violations during crisis situations may become difficult to prosecute and Airpower may be the only available military instrument to achieve political objectives. Airpower would in future be an important component of our nation's military capability and would extensively be used during peace time and in crisis situations to further our national interests. It therefore becomes imperative that IAF's capability be made more potent by synergising it with existing and potential space based applications. Provision of these vital space capabilities would not only increase IAF's potency but would also enhance our ability to carry out precision quick reaction all weather strikes.
Given the high cost of developing space capabilities, it has become imperative to interweave military applications into the existing scientific and commercial space programs. Commercial partnerships permit shared costs, risks and increased opportunities. It also provides the scientific community a clear focus as to the requirements of the aerospace power in terms of combat application. Further, there is a need to have an organisation that evolves space application strategies, employment doctrines and training packages on Aerospace issues. This organisation could also impart specialised professional military education on space subjects to the armed forces personnel. No longer can we isolate the armed forces from the force multiplication effect provided by space applications.Emerging Technologies and Future
The US Govt announced its intention to withdraw from the ABM treaty with effect from 13 Jun 2002. This not only opened the path for the development of missile interceptors but also cleared the way for the US to develop anti-satellite weapons. The aim of their National Missile Defence (NMD) programme is to provide defence against a limited strategic ballistic missile attack. The capabilities that are being developed include high technology systems like Boost Phase Intercept (BPI) by Airborne Lasers (ABL) or Kinetic Energy weapon systems; cruise phase intercept by Space Based Infra Red Systems/ Low Space and Missile Tracking System (Brilliant Eyes), High Energy Lasers or mini satellites as ASAT weapons; and terminal phase intercept by Aegis BMD system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, Patriot Advanced Capability-III or Arrow-2 systems. These capabilities are being complemented by surveillance and tracking radars like X Band radars or upgraded early warning ground based radars. USA is also planning to deploy Boeing 747 aircraft mounted with Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) weapons for tackling Ballistic Missiles in their boost phase.
It is inconceivable that other nations would allow the US to become the sole nation possessing space based weapons. The arms race in space is likely to escalate with its own inertia. The development of parasitic satellites, High Energy Lasers and other ASAT weapons in the neighbourhood is a precursor to the commencement of such a race. Space control would soon need to become an important component of our national security even for commercial purposes. The Indian Air Force would need to be integrated with these developments if it has to enhance its potency and retain its Aerospace character. Rudimentary integrated Aerospace Defence and ASAT capability should be developed on priority.
It was ingenious timing by our scientists that the western satellites did not detect the nuclear tests conducted in May 1998. There is a need to put in place a surveillance system that monitors the orbit pattern of each satellite. The easy availability of Charge Coupled Device (CCD) detectors integrated with computer based systems provide opportunity for putting in place such optical surveillance systems. Besides phased array radars, there are other radars that are cheap to build and operate like US NAVSPASUR system that could also be used.
Evolution of warfare will inevitably require placing weapons in space in order to fulfil a multitude of roles including BMD, defending space based assets and attacking terrestrial targets. The technologies under development could assist pinpoint engagement of ground targets from space by Lasers, particle beam weapons and proton guns. They may also be able to focus the solar energy on surface targets. Though India presently does not possess such capabilities, the availability of R&D infrastructure prepares us for such eventualities in future. Conclusion
Towards the middle of the last century, space became the new high ground. Merging of air and space mediums provided a seamless environment, which in future could be exploited by aerospace vehicles. Space has become a natural extension of the third dimension and is but a continuum of the air medium. The civilian and military establishments today depend heavily on satellite communications, meteorological information, navigation aids, ocean surveillance and various other services available only from space. Space based assets allow a number of traditional military operations to be conducted more efficiently and economically from space.
With increased proliferation of Ballistic Missiles and development of potent nuclear warheads in our neighbourhood, there is a need to expand the current Air Defence capabilities to space so as to ensure that the threats emanating from the air and space environment can be effectively tackled. The function of Aerospace Defence requires a synergistic integration between the endo and exo-atmospheric capabilities for all incoming threats utilising air and space environment. The atmospheric capabilities are already in place with the IAF, but there is a need to integrate the existing and potential space based assets for comprehensive air and space defence of the nation.
As military and economic power becomes more dependent on space based capabilities, the potential for attack on these capabilities would also increase. This would be a low cost option for an adversary to inflict damage to our economic and military strengths. In order to ensure that an increased dependence on space does not become our vulnerability, it is important that India's freedom to securely exploit space capabilities be maintained; and that an ability to deny the adversary, the use of space systems against our nation or vital national assets is included as an important consideration in our national security strategy. Further, the mission of the Indian Air Force should be expanded to read `defend India through the control and exploitation of air and space'.
January 19th, 2008