The exercise not only validated protocols to switch completely to satellite-based communication in case of a conflict but also brought to light key lacunae in the systems

New Delhi: To ensure operational readiness of hi-tech satellite systems and personnel manning, the Indian Army conducted a satellite communication exercise in the last week of July 2022, said sources.

Top sources in Defence establishment have confirmed that a pan Indian Army satellite communication exercise, SKYLIGHT was conducted from in last week of July 2022.

The objective of the exercise was to ensure operational readiness of hi-tech satellite systems and personnel manning these. In this exercise, 100 per cent of all satellite communication assets in the Indian Army were activated and various technical and operational scenarios in the space domain were played up. Various agencies responsible for space and ground segments, as also ISRO participated in the exercise.

As on date, the Indian Army is utilising the services of a number of ISRO satellites, on which over hundreds of communication terminals of various types are connected. These include static terminals, transportable vehicle-mounted terminals, man-portable and small form factor man-pack terminals.

Also, the Indian Army-owned Satellite GSAT-7B has been accorded approval by the Defence Acquisition Council in March this year. This satellite has been designed as the first of its kind indigenous multiband satellite with advanced security features. It will support tactical communication requirements for not only troops deployed on the ground, but also for remotely piloted aircraft, air defence weapons and other mission-critical and fire support platforms.

Transportable Satellite Terminals of the Indian Army to provide secure and reliable voice, video & data connectivity to troops deployed in forward areas 

As complex aerospace technology has begun impacting military operations and communications in particular, it is imperative that technical competence in this field is built and refined within the armed forces.

Indian Army has thus been laying emphasis on training its personnel on all aspects of satellite communication. Detailed studies of cyber and electromagnetic effects during the Ukraine war were carried out by the Indian Army. The study established the efficacy of reliable satellite communication like the one afforded by 'Starlink'.

Taking a cue from the same and also the latest trends in satellite technology, the Indian Army has placed some realisable challenges before the industry and academia. These include the future requirement of fighting troops for small form factor handheld secure satellite phones, satellite IoT and satellite high-speed data backbone, some of which will call for utilisation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

It is expected that in the coming days, there will be an increased collaboration of the Indian Army with the Private Indian Space Industry for the realisation of complex satellite communication projects. For this, we are proactively in touch with various start-ups, MSMEs and INSPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre). This is expected to positively fuel the vision of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' campaign.

Over the years, in line with the growing National space capability, a number of satellite communication networks of the Indian Army have been operationalized for the provision of Beyond Line of Sight tactical communication for remote areas devoid of terrestrial connectivity.