The Army will have its own multi-band dedicated satellite with added security features by 2025 even as it conducted a pan-India exercise using all its space assets and multiple agencies to ensure operational readiness of the hi-tech systems and personnel manning them.

The satellite communication exercise ‘Ex Skylight’, was conducted in the last week of July with the realisation that the northern border, as highlighted by defence establishment sources, is “the primary border of concern”. After the 2020 Galwan stand off, troops on both the sides of the LAC in eastern Ladakh are in their state of combat alertness.

First-of-its-kind satellite

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave approval to the Army’s requirement for a dedicated GSAT-7B satellite in March for secured strategic communication since other two services—Indian Air Force and Navy—already have their own. “This satellite has been designed as first of its kind indigenous multi-band satellite with advanced security features. It will support tactical communication requirements for not only troops deployed on ground, but also for remotely piloted aircraft, air defence weapons and other mission critical and fire support platforms,” informed defence establishment sources.

The Army utilises their services and also of a number of ISRO satellites, on which over hundreds of communication terminals of various types are connected, informed the defence establishment officials. These include static terminals, transportable vehicle mounted terminals, man-portable and small form factor man-pack terminals.

Considering terristerial media gets snapped in conflict, about 200 satellite resources of communication and 80 mobile ones were activated during the field exercise to have a country-wide sweep, sources in the defence establishment said. “Various technical and operational scenarios in space domain were played up” to test response and coordination among the systems and the troops which is key warfare strategy, an officer of defence establishment pointed out.

Multi-domain operations

Though troops are carrying out regular exercises to iron out glitches in their preparedness, the Army has taken a step forward by attempting to leverage space for supporting multi-domain operations.

One of the issues that have emerged out of the exercise which is being looked into is that remote resources did not have support systems, stated defence establishment sources. With India having challenging weather and geographical realities, the satellite communication link-up to commanders becomes important for command and control of operations.

Though the China has advantage in technology, the defence ministry is seeking engagement with academia and others to bridge resource gap.

In the quantum domain

The Army, it is learnt, is also entering into quantum domain for better and secure means of passing on sensitive information. The armed force, revealed defence establishment officials, is looking at this field of technology as a futuristic enabler for integrating a large density of C4I2SR components in the evolving battlefield, including sensors, communications platforms and information systems.

The quantum cryptology is also used in breaking the communication channels of adversaries. China and European countries are leaders in this set of technology where Indian Army will try to securely deliver comprehensive data fusion and decision support capability to commanders at various levels, with minimum latency and maximum effect. Whilst quantum computing offers wide applications in the commercial domains, the Indian Army is looking at active collaboration with industry as well as academia, to evolve effective applications for computing, communications and cryptography.