June 15, 2008

Indian Army to Train Officers on Space-Based Resources

Text of report by Indian news agency PTI

[by N.C. Bipindra]

New Delhi, 15 June: Set to make forays in use of space applications, the Indian army will take a leaf out of US forces' experience to train its officers in optimizing the effective use of space-based resources to meet its operational requirements.

A week after India announced setting up of an integrated cell to coordinate all military operations based on space assets, the army's Directorate of Perspective Planning (DOPP) will organize a training programme tomorrow for officers to make them understand the tricks of the trade, army sources said Sunday [15 June].

To be inaugurated by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Deepak Kapoor, the seminar would also look into the role of space-based applications in recent conflicts around the world.

"In particular, the use of space-based assets by the US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq would be debated. Army officers would learn the practices adopted by the US forces in utilizing space applications to counter enemies in its battles in Iraq and Afghanistan," sources said.

The meet, to be organized in association with the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (Claws), would witness officers discussing and imbibing "space-based application used by militaries of the space- faring nations," sources said.

"It is imperative that Indian Army, being the largest user of space, exploits space-based resources optimally to meet its operational requirements," a note prepared by the DOPP to organize a day-long training for officers, said.

"The training will focus on improving army officers' awareness and understanding about defence applications of space," sources said.

The meet would witness lectures from experts in the filed of space-based military applications, and a particular emphasis would be made to apprise army officers on issues related to space security.

India's defence establishment was shaken up after China's capabilities to shoot down satellites was demonstrated in January 2007. Efforts are now on to put in place countermeasures to ward off the anti-satellite (Asat) threats.

The Integrated Space Cell under the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) Headquarters would now be the prime mover of India's aerospace defence applications. The space cell would act as a single window between armed forces, Department of Space and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to work out measures to protect India's space- based assets.

While India remains committed to non-weaponization of space, emergence of offensive counter space systems and anti-satellite weaponry posed new threats, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said in his address to the IDS [Integrated Defence Staff] commanders' conference held last week.

The DOPP note stated that space-based surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, communication, navigation and electronic warfare have played a dominant role in recent conflicts.

"Space, an emerging arena for defence application, is increasingly being used by militaries the world over, as space technology enable effective conduct of military operations," army officers said.

Among the armed forces, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was the only force to have a separate cell for space operations in 2006 headed by an Air Vice-Marshal-rank officer designated as the assistant chief of air staff (operations-space) at the IAF headquarters. The IAF move was seen as a precursor to the formation of an aerospace command that the IAF had been pushing for.

Officially, though, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had not capped the aerospace command idea, but had been claiming that it was progressing towards having a tri-services formation instead of an IAF-specific one.

"Keeping in view the potential for growth in space-related applications, there is an urgent need to enhance awareness among services officers regarding military-specific space issues," army sources said, justifying their effort to train their officers.

The recently concluded annual Unified Commanders' Conference of the IDS too had discussed the military use of satellite imagery, its present status and future plans.

Satellite imagery has recently assumed importance in the wake of unearthing of China's secret underground nuclear submarine pens, as well as its new range of such underwater vessels.

At the training programme, the army officers would listen to lectures by experts from Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on its "Capabilities and future programmes", Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) on "US military and space", Defence Imagery Processing and Analysis Centre (DIPAC) on "Military applications of space including usage in recent times" and DOPP on "Evolution of space applications in Indian Army".

Originally published by PTI news agency, New Delhi, in English 0703 15 Jun 08.

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