Mission Shakti: PM Narendra Modi today made the big announcement that India has for the first time successfully tested an anti-satellite missile system that shot down a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite. With this massive test by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India has joined select superpowers that have similar anti-satellite missile capability. Russia, US and China are the only three nations in the world with anti-satellite missiles, and with today’s successful test, India has become the fourth member of this elite group of nations.
The test of the anti-satellite missile, ASAT, under Mission Shakti, is being hailed by defence experts as a significant milestone in the new age warfare and India’s defence preparedness. The biggest message from today’s launch is for India’s neighbouring countries China and Pakistan, sending out a clear signal on India’s indigenous defence capabilities.
Why India’s Mission Shakti is big deal – sends a strong message to China, Pakistan
World over, anti-satellite missiles and weapons are seen as highly potent assets. The test is being seen as a bold move, requiring indigenous defence and science capabilities of the highest order, along with a strong political will. According to the MEA statement, the mission was carried out from the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island by DRDO and it achieved all planned parameters. Given the complexity of the mission, it goes without saying that it required very high degree of technical capability and precision. In simple terms, this means that India can now destroy any unfriendly or suspicious satellite in the outer space to protect its own assets. The live satellite which was detroyed was an Indian one. India used the technology called “Kinetic Kill” and DRDO’s Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor was used.
Avinash Chander, former DRDO chief believes that this a big milestone for India’s space defence capability. “This is a totally indigenous capability and a big milestone for space defence. Today protecting our satellites, our space assets is of paramount importance, and India has proven that it has the capability to do so,” Chander told Financial Express Online. “Satellites have become a very important part of modern day warfare in terms of the communication and information that they provide. India has now taken a huge leap in defence preparedness with this path-breaking test,” he said, adding that targeting a low earth orbit satellite ensures that the debris created will not pose a hazard to space missions.
According to renowned defence and strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney, India’s successful “kill” with ASAT is significant and crucial to India’s defence as it will act as a deterrant against enemy attacks. “Space wars are not just Hollywood fiction. The US, Russia and China continue to pursue anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. Space is being turned into a battlefront, making counter-space capabilities critical. In this light, India’s successful “kill” with an ASAT weapon is significant,” Chellaney tweeted. Without building deterrence by demonstrating an ASAT capability, India risked encouraging an adversary like China to go after Indian space capabilities early in a conflict. To “defend” its satellites, India has to deter China’s use of its direct ascent missiles and laser weapons,” he said.
Harsh V Pant, Head Strategic Studies Programme at ORF believes that, “India has sent a signal at multiple levels – to nations like China and Pakistan, to the world that India has the indigenous capability and is taking defence preparedness to another level.” “This also requires huge political will,” Pant told Financial Express Online.
Pranav Mistry a renowned scientist also tweeted about the complexity of developing an ASAT. “People who understand space technology, know the complexity in precisely addressing and taking down a LEO satellite with ASAT. This requires breakthroughs and multitude of technological expertise,” he tweeted.