India to scale up military use of space: Army chief

June 17th, 2008 - 7:53 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of ISRO

New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) India needs to “optimise” the use of space for military applications to counter China’s rapid strides in the sphere, Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor said Monday. “We need to optimise the use of space for military applications,” Gen. Kapoor said at a seminar here on ‘Indian Military and Space’.

“China’s space programme is expanding at a exponentially rapid pace, both in its offensive and military content,” Kapoor added.

The remarks come against the backdrop of Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s remarks last week that India had set up a special cell to counter “the growing threat to our space assets”.

Addressing the Unified Commanders’ Conference here June 10, he had said that “although we want to utilize space for peaceful purposes and remain committed to our policy of non-weaponisation of space, offensive counter space systems like anti-satellite weaponry, new classes of heavy-lift and small boosters and an improved array of military space systems have emerged in our neighbourhood.

The new cell will function under the Integrated Defence Services Head Quarters and will act as a single window for integration among the armed forces, the Department of Space and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

China had stunned the world in February 2007 when it fired a missile that successfully brought down an ageing satellite orbiting over 200 km over the earth. The US Navy replicated the feat in May.

Addressing the seminar, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff Lt. Gen. Hardev Lidder said the special cell would be “the precursor to the eventual setting up of a tri-services Aerospace Command” to manage India’s military assets in space.

“We will get sucked into a military race to protect space assets and eventually, there will be a military contest in space,” Lidder warned.

According to Kapoor, the Indian Army recognises that space is an “emerging area for important military applications and is increasingly being identified as the ultimate military high ground for battle space domination.

“Space based applications like surveillance, intelligence, communications, navigation and precision guidance have played a dominant role in recent conflicts,” the army chief pointed out.

He also noted that the military usage of space in the Indian context “is at a comparatively nascent stage.

“The Indian Army, which has a large user base, needs to expand its knowledge base about space applications and optimise space-based capabilities to the maximum,” Kapoor added.

The Indian Army, he said, had taken “certain space initiatives” in formulating a Space vision 2020, creating a space cell in its perspective planning directorate and conducting space-related training.

“The Indian Army’s agenda for exploitation of space will have to evolve dynamically. It should be our endeavour to optimise space applications for military purposes,” Kapoor added.

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