OMAHA, Neb. — The problems sound familiar to anyone who has watched the evolution of U.S. Strategic Command over the last four years: figuring out the fastest way to get data collected by ground, air and space systems into the hands of the troops who need it — without compromising security — and recruiting, training and retaining a professional space cadre.
While those issues remain prominent on the lists of various commanders at Stratcom, they also are the challenges that brought Indian Air Vice Marshall D.N. Ganesh to Omaha to exchange ideas with his U.S. counterparts.
In a presentation here Oct. 12 during the Strategic Space and Defense Conference sponsored by Space News and the Space Foundation, Ganesh, chairman of India’s Standing Committee for the Exploitation of Aerospace, noted that while India has developed strong space capabilities in telecommunications, launch and remote sensing, it still needs to figure out how to get data into the hands of its troops when they need it. “You have to get information into the field and if it is too late then it is of no use, but you also cannot open the floodgates,” said Ganesh, who also is assistant chief of the Air Staff (Personnel, Airmen and Civilians).
“It is nice for us as well to compare notes,” said William V. Parker, a U.S. State Department minister-counselor who serves as foreign affairs advisor to Stratcom. “Listening to them helps us think through issues in ways we might not have.” He cited as an example the detailed planning India does each year to use satellite imagery to help local governments and first responders prepare for the annual monsoon season and resulting emergencies such as flash floods.
While India’s monsoon season is more predictable than the Atlantic hurricane season, Parker said there is a lot that U.S. first responders could learn from India’s detailed planning and preparations for natural disasters.
Using a term very familiar to U.S. military planners, Ganesh said India is preparing its military forces for network-centric warfare. Given the country’s large information technology work force, one of its thrusts is development of software that will integrate data from multiple platforms, collate it and get it quickly to troops in the field .
Ganesh noted that most of India’s space systems and capabilities are dual use and focused largely on civilian needs such as weather monitoring, television broadcasting and Earth observation. Because India’s space capabilities are relatively mature, he said, the country expects its domestic industry to provide the software and much of the hardware needed to make network-centric warfare a reality.
He said India, like the United States, also is planning to incorporate Internet Protocol-based communications networks into its operations .
Nonetheless, Ganesh said there will be exceptions where India will turn to non-Indian suppliers, citing as examples airborne early warning technology and unmanned aerial vehicles.
“It will be mainly Indian industry, but we are looking for some outside technology,” he said.
One of India’s biggest challenges, Ganesh said, is standardizing formats so that data from satellites and other platforms can be transmitted to a variety of aircraft that currently do not have compatible avionics systems. Today, some solutions work only for some of India’s aircraft, he said.
India has aircraft — including some more than 20 years old — from several countries including the former Soviet Union, the United States and Europe. Those with another 20 years of design life will be retrofitted with new communications systems, he said. For those that have less time left before retirement, it will not always be possible or prudent to do the retrofits, he said.
“We can’t junk them all overnight,” he said.