According The Air Force Chief Of Staff, Space-based Assets Can Be Used For Military Purposes

Anti-satellite tests by major countries, including India, point to the need for a comprehensive Space Situational Awareness, according to Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari. “Evolution of space capabilities has resulted in these assets growing well beyond mere force enhancement roles, and it is possible to use these assets to apply military force in, from, and through space,” he said.

Chaudhari, speaking at the Space Association of India’s 12th Annual Conference and Exhibition on Geospatial Intelligence, said that “increased exploitation of the space domain will lead to increased contestation,” and that as “reliance on space grows, space-based assets will become centres of gravity that are likely to be targeted in war and non-war situations.”

“As a result, notions of force projection, protection, and targeting in space are evolving. Anti-satellite tests by major countries signal the beginning of this contestation and militarization of space.

While our Mission Shakti operation in 2019 demonstrated our ASAT capabilities to discourage enemies from escalating space combat, it also emphasised the requirement for Comprehensive Space Situational Awareness (SSA) via a powerful Space Surveillance Network (SSN).”

According to him, having comprehensive SSA allows for a complete “defensive counter-space attitude” as well as the use of our ASAT capacity if and when needed. “The development of Missile Defense Radars for SSA, space-based sensors, and optical telescopes to track adversarial objects would be key areas for the armed forces,” he said, adding that ISRO and DRDO’s existing capabilities would need to be “integrated into the Air Surveillance picture” of the Air Force, which would extend beyond the current 100 km altitude.

“This integration would pave the way for a Space Surveillance Network to emerge.” Collaboration with other countries for information sharing is also necessary to improve SSA, according to the Air Force Chief.

“In recent years, two important causes have expedited the rising attention on military space application: first, heightened geopolitical churnings, which have intensified the threat environment in this region.

Second, there is a growing recognition that the lines between civil and military space assets are blurring, and most applications are dual use cases.”

While “capacity enhancement in numerous domains of space application is the way forward,” he stated, “this evolution can only be fast raced if we increase civil-military fusion.” He stated that the Defence Space Agency (DSA), which is in charge of aggregating the needs of the Armed Forces, “would play a key role in synergizing civil-military space cooperation to achieve the desired capabilities,” and that it would “mandate an increased interplay with both government and commercial space agencies.”

The Air Force’s strategy is to “fully integrate the air and space capabilities to have a common picture of the aerospace medium, reduce sensor to shooter time, and enable optimum force application,” according to Chaudhari.

Space-based assets “significantly enhance the potency of air power as these assets provide increased battlefield transparency, which is extremely helpful in discerning the enemy’s intentions.”

He explained that space is a “natural extension of the air medium” that “reaffirms our need to adapt to this new environment quickly,” and that the Air Force will “transcend to an air and space force in the years ahead, and we are working on this vision.”

In the military domain, the doctrinal imperative to gain the higher ground for tactical advantage “has manifested in us seeking capabilities in the air and now in space,” he said, adding that the use of “space-based assets” has “revolutionised warfare by enhancing our capacities in intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, communications, early warning, weather forecasting, and navigation.”

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