Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addresses a news conference as Indian Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar listen, in New Delhi

He said the Defence Space Agency would play a key role in synergising civil military cooperation

Space-based assets significantly enhance the potency of air power and outcomes in the space domain will probably decide the eventual victor in future conflicts, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari said on Tuesday.

While traditional communication satellites with geosynchronous orbits have proved their worth due to longer service life and wide area of coverage, the communication satellites in low and medium earth orbits have their own advantages, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief said in his speech at 'Geo Intelligence 2022'.

"Therefore, we are witnessing a highly proliferated low earth orbit with multiple commercial players entering this segment," he noted.

In due course, this technology of low earth orbit satellites will evolve and we shall see reduced manufacturing and launching costs which will favour the shift towards this concept, Chaudhari said.

"While capability enhancement in multiple domains of space application is the way forward, I strongly feel that this evolution can only be fast-tracked through increased civil military fusion, which is a blend of institutes, industries, start-ups, academia, research and development, and test and evaluation laboratories," the IAF chief noted.

He said the Defence Space Agency, which is the lead agency for aggregating the requirements of the armed forces, would play a key role in synergising civil military cooperation to achieve the desired capabilities.

This would mandate increased interplay between the government and commercial space agencies, he added.

Like the air power's effect on surface battles, aerospace power is fast emerging as a new paradigm, which will greatly influence all surface activities, he said.

"The outcomes in aerospace domain will probably decide the eventual victor in future conflicts," he noted, adding newer technologies have made the IAF realign its planning of resources, strategies and ideas.

"In the IAF, we are using terrestrial and space-enabled capabilities to ensure a high degree of network centricity," he said.

Highlighting that space-based assets significantly enhance the potency of air power, Chaudhari said, "These assets provide increased battlefield transparency, which is extremely helpful in discerning enemy's intentions."

The IAF's strategy is to fully integrate the air and space capabilities to have a common picture of the aerospace medium and to enable optimum force application, he noted.

"We see space as the natural extension of the air medium and reaffirm our need to adapt to this new environment rapidly," he said.

Chaudhari said that it is a fact that increased exploitation of space domain will lead to increased contestation.

"As reliance on space grows, space-based assets will become centres of gravity that are likely to be targeted during war," he noted.

Anti-satellite tests by major nations are indications of the onset of this contestation and militarisation of outer space, he said.