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Abdul Kalam Island: Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor missile being launched by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test.  (Photo: PTI)
Abdul Kalam Island: Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor missile being launched by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test. (Photo: PTI)

Opinion | A-SAT tech gives India diplomatic bargaining power

This govt took the decision and in two years, DRDO managed to develop the capability

We have reached the pinnacle of missile technology to intercept a satellite that is orbiting at about 7,000-8,000 metres per second in a lower orbit with the precision of less than one millisecond. If we can intercept a satellite, it means we can intercept any object approaching us this fast. Such objects are intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). We can engage these weapons at altitudes of 300 kilometres above ground.

Such a capability gives the nation strength and sends the message of deterrence against anyone messing with our space assets. Nations use tools of deterrence only when they are driven to the wall. Today Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has demonstrated that we have the capability that only a few among the best have.

If you have a nuclear bomb, the adversary will think twice before using a nuclear weapon. If tomorrow there is a war in space, which we do not subscribe to, this gives us the defence preparedness.

Over the last ten years, major building blocks were under development. This government took the decision and in two years, DRDO has been able to build the necessary technology for interception of a satellite in lower orbit. This consists of a very agile kill vehicle with infrared seeker, excellent command control and communications network and long-range radar systems on ground, all working in unison in an automated manner to enable this interception.

India today has long range missiles like Agni-V, we have underwater missiles, we have nuclear-powered submarines, and we have our own tactical missiles. On land, sea, and air, we have all the capabilities in addition to a nuclear deterrent.

The only missing deterrence was the ability to destroy satellites in space. Having achieved this capability on Wednesday, we have completed the missing link. In case any adversary tries to destroy our space assets, we have an answer to that. Strength respects strength.

It has increased our bargaining power on the diplomatic front as well. This capability is not against any nation. Space is to be used for peaceful purposes.

In 2013, I had made a statement when I was the director general of DRDO and secretary in department of defence R&D, that India has the capability to carry out an anti-satellite programme. But the then government did not have the political will.

Now with the necessary push coming from the present government, DRDO has filled up those missing building blocks, integrated the existing building blocks and created an anti-satellite missile today. That filling up the missing blocks has made all the difference.

These are decisions which are taken because they are strategic in nature, and they cannot be taken by the scientists. They have to be taken by the government and the present leadership under Prime Minister Narendra Modi took that decision.

This A-SAT technology is a combination of two technologies in the missile field. One is a long-range missile capability which has been demonstrated by India many times. The second capability is the ballistic missile defence capability. That means intercepting a missile with another missile. This has also been demonstrated many times by India. Integrating these two technologies, the A-SAT system has been created.

What we have achieved is very precise and agile which can be used for engaging what we call intermediate-range ballistic missiles and ICBMs which are likely to come in that segment. So the same vehicle which we have used today for engaging a satellite can also engage incoming ballistic missiles also.

V.K. Saraswat is a member of NITI Aayog and former director general of the Defence Research and Development Organization.

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