If you have seen Syriana, the 2005 geopolitical thriller film on petroleum politics and the global influence of the oil industry, or Black Hawk Down, a 2001 American war film in which elite US soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis—you’ll recall the strategic importance of satellites in the US military operations. And, who can forget their important role when on March 19, 2003, US President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair sent coalition armies, air forces and navies to liberate Iraq. Guided by GPS space satellites thousands of miles overhead, cruise missiles opened the war with a jaw-dropping attack from warships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, while stealth fighters dropped precision bombs, also guided by GPS satellites.
Around 300 dedicated or dual-use military satellites are orbiting around the earth, with the US owning 50% of them, followed by Russia and China. India’s maiden dedicated defence satellite Rukmini was launched by an European rocket recently, giving a boost to the Indian Navy’s modernisation push to improve space-based communications and intelligence gathering over a wide oceanic region including the country’s landmass and tracking the movements of the enemy across our borders.
Conversely, each of the ships in the naval fleet would have a comprehensive digital map to locate the ships and communication between naval ships is facilitated by this satellite. Similarly, the Indian Army will get vital inputs about stealthy movements over the land too and enhance the ability of our armed forces for a swift attack. It has greater potential of integrating the warships, submarines and aircraft through a highly encrypted data network.
With this launch, India has joined the club of the top five countries—US, Britain, Russia, China and France—which have a satellite customised for defence communication. Custom-made for the Navy by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the advanced multi-band GSAT-7 is the most 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 will also help the Navy keep a hawk-eye over both Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. “From Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait, it will help cover almost 70% of the Indian Ocean region (IOR) where