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By Bulbul Singh

17 Sep 10. “The Indian Navy’s dedicated satellite is a long way off to fielding,” say sources in the Indian defence ministry. This is contrary to earlier announcements made last year by senior Indian officials that a dedicated Indian Navy satellite would be operational by 2010.

Sources said, “A dedicated Indian Navy satellite is a long way off though sharing can be achieved with future civilian satellites, including GSAT-7.”

Sources in Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)said, ”Even GSAT-7 will not be operational in 2010, as earlier planned and will be in place in mid-2011.”

The military satellite programme was first mentioned by the former Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee in Parliament in 2005 when he said in reply to a question that the programme was in ‘advanced stages of development’.

The Indian Navy needs a dedicated satellite to advance its multi-million dollar network centric warfare system which will include networking a variety of sea-based assets. The Indian Navy needs to advance its network centric operations to take care of India’s growing economic interests which now range from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. “In addition the Indian Navy is also activating its littoral warfare preparedness where the use of a dedicated satellite will be needed.” said a senior Indian Navy official.

A dedicated Indian Navy geo-stationary satellite, when operational, will have a 600-1000 nautical mile footprint over the Indian Ocean region which will give connectivity to half a dozen C4ISR systems.

The $1 billion dedicated satellite will be built by Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO)in collaboration with DRDO and will be launched by ISRO. However, sources in ISRO said that they cannot tell when a dedicated Indian Navy satellite will be launched, adding that it is up to the DRDO to state when they are building the satellite.

Once the satellite and its transponders are operational Indian naval warships, submarines and aircraft will be able to communicate on real-time basis and provide a digital tactical battle space view of the dispersed fleet formations, aircraft locations and even submarine deployments.

Once the Indian Navy gets its dedicated satellite and networks, India will be able to achieve maritime domain awareness in the region which will enable exchange of surface and air operational pictures in real-time. This would include linking of submarine-launched missiles, variety of radars, air defence systems and other sea-based assets with Control Headquarters

Currently, the Indian defence forces do not have a dedicated military satellite and have to depend on 1-meter resolution Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) launched in 2001 for military purposes.

The naval satellite will be followed by separate satellites for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. Expressing apprehension for the satellite programme, an Indian Navy official said that given the DRDO track record they will have to wait for a dedicated satellite much longer, adding that it would be better if India were to either buy or lease a dedicated military satellite from overseas.

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