Weaponisation of Space and India’s Options

Col. Deepak Sharma is Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • July 2010

    During Cold War era, space became an essential adjunct for war-fighting on the ground, without becoming another theatre of combat. While militarization of space proceeded rapidly, the weaponisation of space was avoided. Because the weaponisation of space was avoided during the Cold War, it does not necessarily follow that weaponisation will continue to be avoided in a new era of asymmetric warfare. We can improve protection of satellites against some threats, but satellites will remain easy targets for space weapons designed to kill on impact. Space has been free from warfare. No weapons have ever been used in or from space, and no satellites have been destroyed in combat. A glance at the global strategic situation reveals that many nations are rushing to develop space capability. The capabilities in development around the world are largely dual use and will have profound effects on the balance of power. The issue at hand is how to effectively manage the security dilemmas that will inevitably arise due to weaponisation of space. Many space faring nations think that future wars will/may be fought in all medium including space. The laws of aerodynamics cease to apply in space and one is therefore obliged to consider it as a medium different from air. It is still far easier and more likely for surprise attacks to be carried out on the ground than in space. During the Cold War, nuclear-tipped missiles were always ready to fire. We will be safer if we can prevent elevating this hair-trigger situation into space. If India has to look at the threat to its space assets, it can be concluded that though there is a threat to space assets from our perceived adversary, it is neither critical nor alarming. Indian defence forces primary dependence on space based systems if any, can easily be transformed to secondly by developing alternates for both ground and aerial platforms. In future the dependence on space based systems can be further reduced by India by inducting state-of-the-art alternate systems to supplement the space system as alternates

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