With the Indian Space Research Organisation gearing up to launch Gsat-7A communication satellite on Wednesday, TOI’s Surendra Singh explains why this satellite is important for the Indian Air Force:

What is the need to launch a dedicated satellite for IAF?

Once GSLV-F11 (GSLV Mk II) rocket launches Gsat-7A satellite from the second launchpad at Sriharikota at 4.10 pm on Wednesday in the geo orbit, the communication satellite will enable the Indian Air Force (IAF) to interlink different ground radar stations, airbases and AWACS aircraft. It will boost the air force’s network-centric warfare capabilities and enhance its global operations.

Why is Gsat-7A important for IAF?

Gsat-7A will not only interlink all airbases, but it will also boost drone operations as it will help the force upgrade from existing ground control stations to satellite-control of military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The transition will boost the range, endurance and flexibility of UAVs. This comes at a time when India is in the process of acquiring American armed Predator-B or Sea Guardian drones, which are high-altitude and long endurance satellite-controlled UAVs that can fire at enemy targets from long distances.

What are the features of Gsat-7A?

Costing around Rs 500-800 crore, the communication satellite is configured on the standard 1-2K Bus with bi-propellant chemical propulsion system for orbit rasing and in-orbit maintenance. Its four solar panels are capable of generating around 3.3 kilowatts of electrical power.

How many dedicated communication satellites Isro has launched for the military?

Before the scheduled launch of Gsat-7A, Isro had launched Gsat-7, also called ‘Rukmini’, on September 29, 2013 exclusively for the Navy. ‘Rukmini’ has helped the Navy monitor the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as the satellite has a nearly 2,000 nautical mile ‘footprint’ and provides real-time inputs to Indian warships, submarines and maritime aircraft. The IAF is also likely to get another satellite Gsat-7C, within a few years that will boost its network-centric operations.

What are the space assets of our Indian military?

India currently possesses around 13 military satellites. Most of these remote-sensing satellites like Cartosat-series and Risat satellites are placed in the near-earth orbit which help in better scanning of the earth. However, some of these military satellites have also been put in the geo orbit. The forces use these satellites for surveillance, navigation and communication purpose. The remote sensing satellites had also helped the military in the surgical strike against Pakistan to destroy terror launchpads.

How many military satellites are there in the world?

Currently, there are 320 military satellites orbiting the earth, with the US owning half of them, followed by Russia and China. Of late, China, considered to be India’s biggest rival, has taken huge strides in developing military assets in space, testing even ASAT (anti-satellite) weapons against “low-earth satellites” in January 2017.

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