Service Sources: Timing of Indian Navy Satellite Launch Unclear

by

NEW DELHI — Despite widespread media reports that India is poised to launch its first satellite for use by the Indian navy, the timing of the launch is unclear, service sources said.

A scientist with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which built the satellite, originally said the satellite is ready for launch.

Once launched, it will be used exclusively by the Indian navy to integrate its network-centric warfare program dubbed Project Rukmani. The satellite and network-centric systems will cost about $160 million, and Israel is helping with the project.

The satellite will be put into geostationary orbit above the Indian Ocean. It will transfer high-speed data and link all Indian navy ships, submarines, airplanes and control centers on the shore into a single information network, a navy official said.

“The dedicated military satellite will ultimately link the Indian navy’s long-range missiles and radars, which will enhance the maritime domain of the Indian navy in the Indian Ocean,” defense analyst Nitin Mehta said.

The satellite weighs 2.5 tons and can operate on multiple frequencies, including UHF, S-band, C-band and Ku-band. Once launched, the satellite will upgrade the Indian navy from a platform-centric to a network-centric service.

Early this year, the Navy created a dedicated post to head the Network-Centric Warfare Department here.

A Defence Ministry official said the step to create a position to run the department is in tandem with the navy’s plans to seamlessly integrate all combat platforms and terrestrial nodes through state-of-the art communications and space systems toward network-centric operations.

Project Rukmani is under the aegis of the ISRO and involves delivery and installation of very small aperture terminal (VSAT) antennas for the entire Indian navy, an ISRO official said.

Under this project, Ku- and C-band VSAT terminals are being built by Bharat Electronics and Electronics Corp. of India, both state-owned. Orbit of Israel is the original equipment manufacturer for this project, the ISRO official added.

The ship-based terminals will provide continuous communications connectivity for voice, fax, data, video and Internet services, the ISRO official said.

Right now, India’s defense forces do not have a dedicated military satellite and have to depend on weather satellites, which in India often carry communications transponders.

The launch of the Indian navy satellite will be followed by a separate satellite for the country’s air force, and the army in the next two to three years, an Indian Defence Ministry source said.