Need To Speed Up Pace Of Augmenting Space-based Capabilities: CDS
NEW DELHI: The rapid militarisation of space and its use to enhance combat capabilities in land, sea and cyber domains had made the military applications of space “the dominant discourse from which we cannot remain divorced,” warned Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan.
Gen Chauhan was the chief guest at the inaugural session of the first Indian DefSpace Symposium—a three-day event organised by the Indian Space Association (ISpA) in association with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)—which kicked off at the United Services Institute in New Delhi on April 11.
Addressing the large gathering of military brass and senior officials representing government and private agencies with stakes in what is often described as the final frontier, General Chauhan began with a quote from Cooper, the protagonist of the 2014 Science Fiction movie Interstellar. “We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements… And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, that our destiny lies above us.”
“What Mr Cooper says is applicable to all of us engaged in this business of exploring and exploiting space,” said Gen Chauhan. “We live in an era where events on earth can be influenced by activities in space. We in India are yet to travel to space, to influence the activities there, but I am sanguine that one day we will reach there.”
He underlined the urgent need to promote, protect and defend India’s assets in space. “The aim for all of us should be towards developing dual-use platforms with special focus towards incorporating cutting-edge technology and we must expand our NAVIC (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) constellation, provide agile space-based ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and ensure secure satellite-assisted communications,” he said.
“We also need to explore the field of miniaturization of satellites and reusable launch platforms to mitigate cost, challenges and accelerate the pace of augmenting our space-based capabilities. The populating of space domain and the emergence of dynamic threat environment to our space assets also demands that we enhance our space situational awareness capability. There’s also a requirement to safeguard our assets with counter space capabilities. We must build resilience and redundancy in a space-based infrastructure,” he added.
Earlier, DG ISpA, Lt. Gen. AK Bhatt (Retd), said that “The symposium will pave the way forward of how we leverage international space cooperation and also the policy and strategy for building an overall comprehensive difference space strategy.”
“Many of those sitting here are actually writing history,” said the DG DSA, Air Vice Marshal DV Khot. “In the sense that this generation of people has been chosen to see space in India. And we don’t have a choice of whether or not, our choice is only of where we go.”
Asserting that “the defence space user is a major stakeholder in the growth of the ecosystem which involves the government, academia, industry, the user, the financier,” he said that this combined mindpower, working together instead of in confrontational silos, would be able to achieve incredible feats in the realms of space.
Dr Samir V Kamat, Chairman, DRDO, said, We are now looking at working very closely with industry as well as academia right from the development stage and have started DRDO industry-academia centres of excellence in about 15 institutions mostly within the country. We request academia, startups, MSMEs and larger companies to work with us closely so we can help our country achieve these capabilities much faster than what we have been able to do for all other systems.”
Director, ISpA, Wg Cdr Satyam Kushwaha (Retd), said space was emerging as the fifth dimension of warfare. Noting that the increasing and cheaper space assets were both a boon and a threat, he said there was an urgent for innovative dual use disruption.
There was an analysis of China’s military capabilities, including its space-based assets, and how these impacted the balance of power in the region. Participants also examined the strategies and capabilities of China’s neighbouring countries and how they are responding to the changing geopolitical landscape.
The speakers included Lt Gen (Dr) S.L. Narasimhan (Retd), former member of the National Security Advisory Board and former Director General, Centre for Contemporary China Studies; Prof. Chandrashekar, JRD Tata Chair and Visiting Professor, NIAS, Brigadier Anshuman Narang and Dr Rajeshwari Pillai, Director, Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology, ORF.