Unlike the Indian Air Force and the navy, the army currently does not have a dedicated satellite. The satellite will considerably enhance the communication capability of army by providing mission critical beyond line-of-sight communication to troops & formations

In a major boost for the Indian Army’s communication capability, the defence ministry on Wednesday signed a ₹3,000-crore contract with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), for an advanced communication satellite, GSAT 7B, for the army to fulfill a long-standing need, officials familiar with the matter said.

“The satellite will considerably enhance the communication capability of the army by providing mission critical beyond line-of-sight communication to troops and formations as well as weapon and airborne platforms,” the defence ministry said.

The five-ton geostationary satellite will be developed indigenously by ISRO.

The army is likely to get the satellite in 2026, the officials said.

The satellite with advanced security features will support tactical communication requirements of not only troops deployed on the ground, but also remotely piloted aircraft, air defence weapons and other mission critical and fire support platforms, the officials said.

“The dedicated satellite for the army is a long-standing need and will enhance the network centric warfare capabilities of the army, making them more secure and jam-proof. The army was so far dependent on the air force’s GSAT-7A satellite,” said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

The army has also carried out a detailed study of cyber and electromagnetic warfare in the Russia-Ukraine war, and established the efficacy of a reliable satellite communication system that can provide high-speed internet services to remote areas, as previously reported.

India’s defence acquisition council (DAC), the government’s top weapons procurement body, had cleared the army proposal for a GSAT-7B satellite in March 2022 to sharpen its operational capabilities. The GSAT-7 series of advanced satellites built by ISRO are designed to provide communication capabilities to users over vast expanses including oceans.

Many parts and sub-assemblies and systems of the satellite will be sourced from indigenous manufacturers, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups, the ministry said, adding that the project will generate an employment of around 3,00,000 man-days over the next three-and-a-half years.

The ministry also signed two other contracts worth around ₹2,400 crore with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to sharpen the air defence capabilities of the armed forces.

The first of these, worth ₹1,982 crore, is to implement Project Akashteer, an automated air defence control and reporting system that will allow the army’s air defence units to operate in an integrated manner.

Akashteer will enable the monitoring of low-level airspace over the battle areas of the Indian Army and effectively control the ground-based air defence weapon systems, the defence ministry said.

The second contract worth ₹412 crore with BEL is for Sarang electronic support measure systems for Indian Navy helicopters.

All the three projects will provide a boost to the self-reliance campaign as they are under the most important category of acquisition for indigenisation under the defence procurement policy, or the Indian-IDDM category. IDDM stands for indigenously designed, developed and manufactured.