Noting that the race to weaponise space has already started and the day is not far when the next war would spread across all domains of land, sea, air, cyber and space, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said on Monday that there There is a need to develop both offensive and defensive space capabilities to safeguard the country’s assets.

“We need to capitalize on our initial successes in space and prepare ourselves for the future,” he said, speaking at a seminar by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

We are seeing the “democratisation of space” with increased private sector involvement, ACM Chaudhari said, noting that this has led to dramatically reduced costs of developing, launching and operating spacecraft for applications such as reconnaissance and telecommunications.

With “on-demand launch” becoming the new normal and growing exploitation of it by private and military stakeholders, space has definitely become the ultimate high ground, he said. Increasingly, the traditional domains of war fighting along with the emerging ones like cyber and information are all manifesting themselves into what is known as a hybrid warfare, the Air Chief added.

“Over the years, the Indian Air Force has proved its capability across the entire spectrum of conflict ranging from peace, no war-no peace, and conflict situations,” ACM Chaudhari said, stating that the IAF is on the path of transformation so that they can fight and win tomorrow’s wars.

Upgrading the inventory

β€œWe are in the process of acquiring and operationalizing cutting-edge systems in our inventory. At the same time, the task of upgrading the existing inventory of aircraft, weapons and other combat support systems continues unabated.”

Talking of futuristic technologies like Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) and hypersonic weapons, ACM Chaudhari said DEWs, particularly lasers, provide significant advantages such as precision engagement, low cost per shot, logistical benefits and low detectability over traditional weapons.

β€œOur defense industries need to further the development of these weapons and also integrate them onto airborne platforms to get desired ranges and accuracy,” he stated.

He referred to the role of private companies in the space domain and gave examples of Indian companies like Pixxel who are involved in development of nano-satellites for a constellation of remote-sensing and earth observation and Skyroot, which has developed specifically designed rockets for nano – satellite launch.

Global stakeholders like Starlink, though in early stages of development, have provided path-breaking deployment of providing high-speed internet access around the world in under-served areas, the Air Chief said, adding that such technology now has the capability of dual use .

He elaborated that its civilian effect in global communication and internet access was still evolving while its military effect in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is unclear.

β€œIt is pertinent that we develop such technology in-house. With these developments we can now envision indigenous space technology capabilities and affordable access to space for a range of applications in the near future. However, we must be cognizant of the technology to be within the contours of national policy, security and objectives,” he added.

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