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ASAT weapons

  • IASbaba
  • October 13, 2022
  • 0
Science and Technology
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In News: India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) test in March 2019 made it the fourth country (after the United States, Russia, and China) to have a demonstrated ASAT capability.

Indian Context:

  • India for decades has had a policy against the Weaponization of space, however India had remained concerned about China’s growing space power since its first successful ASAT test in January 2007.
  • This pushed India to invest in its own capabilities to deter China.
  • Therefore, even states that want to keep their space programmes focused on civilian applications will likely focus on national security considerations under duress.

Concerns:

  • A classic security dilemma where all sides end up worse off –  As long as certain countries believe they have a legitimate security interest in pursuing an ASAT capability, others will find ways to justify it as well.
  • It accentuates regional insecurities rather than diminishing the threats faced by countries.
  • China’s increasing tendency to use force, including potentially in outer space, has increased the vulnerabilities not just for the big powers but for India as well.
  • ASAT weapons and such systems make other states vulnerable.
  • Compared to the Cold War days and the superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, the competition now involves many more countries.
  • Also, given the much larger dependence on space by all major space powers, including for conventional military operations, the temptations for targeting each other’s space assets are that much higher.

Solutions:

  • One fortunate aspect is that ASAT weapons have not been deployed yet by states. They are still in the phase of demonstration of technical feasibility.
  • This provides a narrow window of opportunity to prevent deterrence requirements from driving state policy in outer space.
  • This necessitates urgent multilateral discussions on ways to reduce tensions, enhance openness and transparency.
  • The US decision for a unilateral moratorium on destructive ASAT tests is gaining some interest.
  • Acknowledging the dangers of ASAT weapons and making ASAT tests a prime issue in multilateral arms control discussions.
  • A limited conversation among the four ASAT powers can be a starting point and a step in the right direction.
  • The current Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) under the UN on reducing space threats through norms, rules, and principles of responsible behaviours could be a platform that might generate such commitments.

Indian ASAT:

  • Mission Shakti: On 27 March 2019, India tested an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT).
  • The target of the test was a satellite present in a low Earth orbit, which was hit with a kinetic kill vehicle.
  • India’s ASAT test hit a target satellite at an altitude of 300 kilometres.
  • The ASAT test utilized a modified anti-ballistic missile interceptor code-named Prithvi Defence Vehicle Mark-II which was developed under Project XSV-1.
  • The test made India the fourth country after the United States, Russia and China to have tested an ASAT weapon.
  • The test sparked concerns regarding the creation of space debris.

Others:

  • U.S.: In 2008, US Navy fired RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 ABM weapon at a decaying satellite
  • Russia: In 2015, Russia successfully conducted anti-satellite mission known as PL-19 Nudol.
  • China: In 2017, China destroyed a satellite called Fengyun-1C with a kinetic kill warhead

Source: Observer Research Foundation

 

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