To ensure the operational readiness of all satellite systems, the Indian army last month activated all of its means of communication by satellite during an exercise dubbed “Skylight”.
Sources within the defense establishment said on Friday that the exercise took place from July 25-29 and that 100% of all satellite communications, including handheld terminals, static system and vehicle-mounted systems, had all been tested. In addition, 200 static ground terminals and about 80 transportable vehicle-mounted and portable terminals have all been activated with other agencies including the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). From the east and south of the country, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Jammu and Kashmir, the army has activated 100% of all its means of communication by satellite.
Ex-Skylight comes at a time when the Indian Army is still analyzing different aspects of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war and the importance of lessons related to communications technology. And towards its Atmanibhar Bharat journey, the Army is now engaging with both academia and Indian industry, including MSMEs and IN-SPACe (India National Space Promotion and Authorization Center) .
And for the future needs of the troops in the field, the Indian Army has asked industry and academia to help with small form factor portable secure satellite phones, high-speed satellite data backbone. And that will involve the use of constellations of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.
According to sources, “During the exercise, various technical and operational scenarios were simulated. Apart from the means of satellite communication, agencies such as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the heads of space and ground segments have participated.
With the rapid changes in the way wars are fought and the impact of technology on battlefield communications, it is important for the military to develop and hone their technical skills in the field,” another defense establishment source said.
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Currently, the Indian Army does not have a dedicated satellite; approval has already been given for a satellite which is expected to be launched in early 2025. Currently, the Indian Army is using several ISRO satellites and hundreds of communication terminals of different types connected to them. These include vehicle-mounted, portable and static terminals, as well as small form factor stand-alone terminals.
What was the objective of Ex Skylight?
It was carried out to ensure the operational availability of high-tech satellite systems and those who operate them.
One of the sources also said that the Indian Army needs to leverage space capabilities in order to support different military operations. Due to its different topography which poses different challenges, China’s northern borders are a major concern for the military.
In line with the growing national space capability, “For the provision of tactical communications beyond line of sight for remote areas lacking terrestrial connectivity, several Indian Army satellite communication networks have been operationalized,” explained a source.
Satellite dedicated to the army
This should be ready for the military by December 2025 and, “The multi-band satellite will be native and have advanced security features. This will support tactical communication requirements, air defense weapons, remotely piloted aircraft, l fire support and also other mission critical platforms.
As previously reported, the Defense Acquisition Board (DAC) in March approved the Army’s proposal for a GSAT-7B satellite, which would aid in its operational capabilities. The GSAT-7 series of advanced satellites built by ISRO were designed to provide communications capabilities to armed forces to cover large areas, including the oceans.
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The Indian Army has also conducted a detailed study of cyber and electromagnetic warfare in the Russian-Ukrainian war. And, based on his analysis, established the effectiveness of a reliable satellite communication system like Starlink, which can provide high-speed Internet services in remote areas of the country.
Key lesson of the Russian-Ukrainian war
According to one of the sources, “In this ongoing war, the importance of a tactical communication system has emerged. And how to use this tactical communication system with a suitable backhaul is one of the main lessons learned.
Defense sources quoted above said the military is now focused on exploiting quantum computing. The Indian Army has turned to industry and academia to develop communications and cryptography applications that will help improve information secrecy.
What is the Indian Army looking for in quantum computing?
He sees this area of technology as a futuristic enabler. It will help integrate a high density of C4I2SR components into the evolving battlefield, such as communication platforms and information systems and sensors.
Why is this important?
Sensitive systems can be compromised, one of the sources explained. Why? “Because with quantum computers, traditional cryptographic systems can be completely or partially hacked.”
Any progress made by India’s adversaries on the ground is being tracked as it would help induce capabilities to handle security breach threats in the systems.
Considering the increasing use of technology in various operations, the Indian Army has started to focus more on training its personnel in various aspects of satellite communication to ensure that they have all the skills techniques in this area.
He recently launched a request for information for his own student satellite. This will be for the purpose of training its engineering students at the Military College of Telecommunications Engineering on satellite technology.