Amidst a long India-China standoff at Doklam plateau, a verbal duel has been going on between the countries. But then, China reacted aggressively, this time in the Indian Ocean. A report in India Today claimed that China has deployed an advanced submarine in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Also recently, China had rolled out its ‘most advanced and largest warship in Asia’ just days after the standoff was called. While several reports have suggested that such moves have nothing to do with the standoff at the border, yet China’s heightened interference in the Indian backyard is not a new thing. But now, India appears to have picked up the movement of China’s Yuan class conventional diesel-electric submarine in the region recently. The Indian Navy has been keeping a close tab on Chinese submarines entering the area through its very own military satellite GSAT-7, also known as Rukmini.
What is Rukmini? GSAT 7, or Rukmini was launched on August 30, 2013. With the help of this multi-band military communication satellite, also known as Rukmini, the Indian Navy could actually expand its blue-water capabilities and minimise reliance on other foreign satellites which provide intel to its ships. It was the first military communication satellite developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the Indian Defence forces, with the Indian Navy being the primary user. Built on September 29, 2013, Rukmini is also the last of ISRO’s seven fourth-generation satellites. Weighing nearly 2,650 kg, the satellite has a minimum of 2,000 nautical mile footprint over the IOR. Rukmini was launched using an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. This gave India a major push in maritime security.
What are its capabilities in the Indian Ocean Region? With the satellite launch, India had joined the club of the top five countries US, Britain, Russia, China and France which had a satellite customised for defence communication. Custom-made for the Navy by ISRO, the advanced multi-band GSAT-7 is a highly advanced communication satellite capable of providing a wide range of service spectrum from low bit rate voice to high bit rate data communication. Designed to modernise communications among naval ships as well as intelligence survey, Rukmini also helps the Navy keep a hawk-eye over both Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. A case in point was Operational Exercise (Tropex) in the Bay of Bengal in 2014 when Rukmini was successfully able to network around 60 ships and at least 75 aircraft effortlessly. From the Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait, it helps cover almost 70 percent of the Indian Ocean region (IOR) where China is increasingly expanding its strategic footprint, as well as on troop movements, missile silos, military installations and airbases across land borders, an ISRO official had informed.
How was it launched and what is the cost? The foreign launch cost of the GSAT-7 was around Rs 480 crore, with the satellite cost over Rs 185 crore. It was successfully placed into a geosynchronous orbit, around 36,000 km above Earth, nearly five days prior to its launch after at least three orbit-raising manoeuvres from ISRO’s Master Control Facility in Karnataka’s Hassan. The Rs 185-crore Rukmini was launched during a 50-minute launch window which started at 2 am.
You may like to watch this video:
What did India do before the launch of GSAT 7 Rukmini? Earlier, satellite communication was through Inmarsat satellite of UK-based Global Mobile Satellite Service Company. India used to be a bit late and perhaps reluctant to make entry into the military space arena inspite of having a robust civilian programme for decades. In the absence of homegrown dedicated satellites, the armed forces were relegated to using dual-use Cartosat satellites or the Technology Experimental Satellite launched in 2001. India also leased foreign satellite transponders for surveillance, navigation and communication purposes.