Indian Defence Cyber Agency & Defence Space Agency : Updates and Discussions


Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Found something interesting to share but had no appropriate threads for it. So I made one. Let's use this thread to post information/news about India's DCA.

India's New Defence Cyber Agency Will Have to Work Around Stovepipes Built by Army, Navy & Air Force: Lt Gen DS Hooda

Another crucial task for the agency will be the framing of a long-term policy for the security of defence networks, which includes weaning the Indian military away from its current reliance on foreign hardware and software.

Updated on: June 26, 2019, 9:24 AM IST
By Lt Gen (Retd) DS Hooda

File photo.

In April, media reports announced the appointment of Rear Admiral Mohit Gupta as the head of the new Defence Cyber Agency (DCA) being raised for the Indian military.

Admiral Gupta’s work is cut out for him as, starting from a virtual scratch, he will have to build an organisation capable of warfighting in the cyber dimension. Two of his crucial tasks will be to develop a doctrine that integrates cyberwarfare with conventional operations and to evolve long-term, robust policies for the security of defence networks.

In preparing the doctrine, some recent events could serve as a guide as to how a cyberwar could play out. On 22 June, The Washington Post reported that the US Cyber Command had launched a “cyber strike that disabled Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches”. The report also stated: “The strike against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was coordinated with US Central Command”.

The cyber strikes had taken weeks of preparation and were carried out in retaliation to the shooting down of a US RQ-4A Global Hawk drone in the vicinity of Iranian airspace on 20 June.

The second event took place on May 4 when the Israel Defence Forces (Older Forum) carried out an airstrike against a building in the Gaza Strip that was claimed to house a Hamas cyber unit. The Older Forum tweeted, "We thwarted an attempted Hamas cyber offensive against Israeli targets. Following our successful cyber defensive operation, we targeted a building where the Hamas cyber operatives work.”

The Older Forum spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manlis said, "After dealing with the cyber dimension, the Air Force dealt with it in the physical dimension.”

Both these incidents carry some valuable lessons. Cyber operations are increasingly being used as part of a nation’s warfighting efforts, but these should not be viewed only as standalone operations. It is a fact that some very targeted and effective cyberattacks have been conducted, like the American 'Operation Olympic Games’ that damaged the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. However, as far as the military is concerned, cyber operations will require to be fully integrated with conventional operations.

The US responded to a kinetic attack on its military drone by a cyber strike on Iran’s air defence networks, while the Older Forum responded to a cyber threat from Hamas through a kinetic air strike.

Therefore, there are no neat dividing lines between cyber operations and conventional use of force. And cyber deterrence straddles both areas, using deterrence by denial (a defensive measure to harden critical systems against attacks) and deterrence by cost imposition. A 2017 report of the US Department of Defense Task Force on Cyber Deterrence pointed out that deterrence by cost imposition “requires credible response options at varying levels of conflict”, including the “full range of military responses”.

In attempting to draw up a doctrine for cyberwarfare, Admiral Gupta will have to find a way to work around the vertical stovepipes into which the three services have enclosed themselves. There is great reluctance within the Army, Navy, and Air Force to share operational information and resources. Cyberwarfare is also seen narrowly as a technical, information technology (IT) issue, and there is not enough understanding of its value in our operational planning. Unless these matters are doctrinally addressed, the effectiveness of cyber operations will remain limited.

A second crucial task for DCA will be the framing of a long-term policy for the security of our defence networks. There are many aspects to this, but perhaps the most important is to wean the Indian military away from its current reliance on foreign hardware and software.

After the Snowden revelations, it was clear that IT companies in the US were aiding the worldwide surveillance operations by their government. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Apple were all complicit in this programme known as PRISM. Other countries have not been far behind.

In October 2018, Bloomberg reported that tiny malicious microchips, not part of the original design, had been found in the motherboards of Supermicro, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of server motherboards. These had apparently been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.

Despite a surfeit of such examples, there is no concerted effort to promote indigenous products in our military networks. There is a similar story with software. A serious attempt was made in the army to adopt the Bharat Operating System Solutions (BOSS), developed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing. After a test-bed in Northern Command that lasted almost three years, the effort has now been rolled back with a return to the Windows Operating System. Compare this with Chinese and Russian militaries, both of whom have recently announced that due to security concerns they will replace Windows with their indigenously developed operating system.

The actions of IT companies after the recent placing of Huawei on the 'entity list' by the US government should be the real wake-up call for our military. Google has blocked Huawei's future access to Android updates, while UK-based chip designer ARM has suspended business with Huawei. Last week, the US warned of punitive action against Indian companies found supplying equipment or other products of American origin to Huawei.

I have no sympathy for Huawei or its predatory practices, but the real lesson here is that foreign companies could cut off support to their hardware and software at any time, based on their government’s direction. And before we dismiss this possibility, let us remember that we live in an anarchic system of international relations where national interests reign supreme. Our military’s reliance on foreign companies is a serious vulnerability that could prove devastating in a time of crisis.

The doctrine and policies put in place by the DCA will define the future path to be taken by the Indian military to successfully prosecute cyber operations as a part of its warfighting strategy. If this requires ruffling some traditional feathers and intruding on established turfs, the DCA should not be too hesitant.

(The author is former Northern Commander, Indian Army, under whose leadership India carried out surgical strikes against Pakistan in 2016. Views are personal.)

India's New Defence Cyber Agency Will Have to Work Around Stovepipes Built by Army, Navy & Air Force: Lt Gen DS Hooda


Senior Member
Nov 30, 2017
Lot of things have to be Indianized very quickly.

For example, while we have lost the 5G race, GoI should rope in Tata and L&T to develop our own 6G network. 6G will start rolling out by 2030s, so it's going to become very important for us to rely on our own civilian network. 6G is going to be very important for the advent of AI and the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Similarly, we need our own microchips and motherboards, particularly in strategic industries like space and nuclear. We also need supercomputers built on our own hardware with everything connected to a national network.

The military itself has to Indianize ASAP.


Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
I suppose we need a new thread now as this gets going :

Eye On China, India Set To Kick-Start 1st Space War Drill

By Rajat Pandit
TNN | Jul 24, 2019, 10.36 AM IST

Though India for long has had an expansive civilian space program, it largely restricted military use of space to intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, communication and navigation.

Highlights :
  • The Indian armed forces are all set to conduct the country's first-ever simulated space warfare exercise "IndSpaceEx" this week
  • India successfully tested an anti-satellite (A-Sat) interceptor missile on March 27 this year
  • Move spurred by China taking fast strides in developing A-sat capabilities

NEW DELHI : The Indian armed forces are all set to conduct the country’s first-ever simulated space warfare exercise this week, which will lead to an assessment of the “imminent threats” in the expanse beyond earth and the drafting of a joint space doctrine for futuristic battles.

The tri-Service integrated defence staff (IDS) under the defence ministry is conducting the two-day “IndSpaceEx”, with all military and scientific stakeholders on Thursday and Friday, in the backdrop of China’s rapidly expanding space and counter-space capabilities.

TOI was the first to report that such an exercise was being planned after India successfully tested an anti-satellite (A-Sat) interceptor missile to destroy the 740-kg Microsat-R satellite, at an altitude of 283-km in the low earth orbit (LEO), in a “hit-to-kill mode” under “Mission Shakti” on March 27 this year.

With China developing a wide array of A-Sat weapons, both kinetic in the shape of co-orbital killer satellites and direct ascent missiles as well as non-kinetic ones like lasers and electro-magnetic pulse weapons, officials say India has no option but to develop deterrence capabilities to ensure no adversary can threaten its assets in outer-space.

“PM Narendra Modi said the A-Sat test in March was conducted to make India stronger and more secure as well as further peace and harmony. In line with this vision, IndSpaceEx is being conducted to identify key challenges and shortfalls if a conflict escalates to the space dimension. A leading IIT has also been engaged to work on the potential solutions,” said a senior official.

Though India for long has had an expansive civilian space program, as was once again demonstrated by the successful launch of the Chandrayaan-2 mission on Monday, it largely restricted military use of space to intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, communication and navigation.

The A-Sat test as well as the recent approval for the tri-Service Defence Space Agency, even though the armed forces were demanding a full-fledged Space Command, signifies the crossing of that self-imposed threshold for developing offensive space capabilities.

“There is the need to explore effective tactical, operational and strategic exploitation of the final frontier of warfare. We cannot keep twiddling our thumbs while China zooms ahead. We cannot match China but must have capabilities to protect our space assets,” said another official.

Not only can an adversary’s counter-space weapons take out India’s assets critical for its economic and social infrastructure, but they can also “blind and deafen” the Indian armed forces by destroying or jamming satellites vital for surveillance, communication, missile early-warning and precision-targeting. “China, after all, has developed both soft and hard-kill space weapons,” he added.

Eye on China, India set to kickstart 1st space war drill


Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Indian Army’s approach to electronic & cyber warfare is nowhere as evolved as China’s PLA

New Delhi’s information warfare capacities are fragmented and lack a clear command structure.

By Kartik Bommakanti
24 July, 2019 8:58 am

Representational image of the Indian Army | PTI

Both the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Indian Army acknowledge network-centric warfare as doctrinally important. But while organisationally and in command and control, the People’s Liberation Army has undergone significant reforms; the same is not true for the Indian Army. The latter is yet to fully acknowledge and recognise the complementarities between electronic warfare and cyber warfare.

Cyber warfare

Cyber warfare (CW) is defined as “attacks by a nation or quasi-national organisation on the software and data (as opposed to the 13 people) in an information system”.

Electronic warfare

Electronic warfare (EW) takes place within the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). The EMS itself can be defined as the “…range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation from zero to infinity”. EW is crucial in military operations. The integration and conduct of EW to support military missions occurs across all services.

CW and EW in land warfare

In the context of land warfare, electronic warfare and cyber warfare operations are undertaken to support army operations and missions. Most immediately relevant to land operations are ground-based EW systems and aerial EW systems.

Any army will generally have a combination of ground-based and airborne electronic assets. The challenge lies in leveraging both subsets in a synchronised manner. Beyond EW assets, the challenge is either to conduct operations independently or in concert with CW assets based on the commander’s directives and the mission.

The commonality between electronic warfare and cyber warfare is a matter of perspective. As a rule, any network is vulnerable to penetration and corruption whether it is air-gapped (connected to the internet) or not.

China’s stand

Under China’s conception of cyber warfare, an entire range of capabilities and technologies characterise computerised warfare. In Chinese parlance, cyber warfare is described as Computer Network Operations (CNO) that involve digitisation and computer systems that are completely networked and provide clarity and data in real time to military commanders on the field. CNO can assume the form of hacking and cyber-attacks. Further, through simulated false commands, the adversary can be deceived.

From a Chinese standpoint, warfare across the electromagnetic spectrum requires initiative and offensive action. The purpose, according to the PLA, is to dominate the electronic spectrum and effectively deny the enemy the use of its electronic equipment. Offensive operations across the electronic medium would employ electronic jamming, electronic deception, directed energy weapons and electromagnetic pulse radiation. The defence (as opposed to offence) would require hardened facilities, dispersion, countermeasures, and physical retaliation. Consequently, microelectronics has been a key area of investment for the PLA.

In 1999, PLA Major General Dai Qingmin was the key advocate behind the adoption of China’s integrated view of cyber warfare and electronic operations as part of the PLA’s Information Warfare (IW) strategy.

According to the PLA, electronic warfare and cyber warfare are not mutually exclusive; it is necessary to recognise their convergence and integration to dominate information operations during wartime. Dai Qingmin called it Integrated Network Electronic Warfare (INEW) composed of the “…organic combination of electronic warfare and computer network warfare.” As the American scholar James Mulvenon put it, this was “revolutionary”, because even experts and information warriors in the United States were yet to be convinced about the connectedness between the two forms of warfare; they deemed electronic warfare to be completely outside the realm of computer attack networks.

Although China has not established a formal information warfare doctrine, it has gone ahead of the curve in grasping the importance of the opportunities in combining cyber and electronic warfare, or at least seeing the complementarities between them.

There is evidence to suggest that PLA intends to confront the adversary pre-emptively through cyberspace alone, which is not necessarily linked to dominating the electromagnetic spectrum. This effort would require computer network operations that infect the enemy’s weapons systems with malware while they are still inactive, but the malicious code only activates at predetermined time with the aim of destroying the adversary’s Command and Control system, such as “…circuits that control railroads, military air traffic and divert trains to wrong routes to cause traffic jams”. The PLA, therefore, also views cyber operations as an independent means to subdue the adversary and sees computer network operations as having disruptive effects on them.

The Chinese approach to cyber warfare and electronic warfare is compatible with this paper’s conception of cyber-electronic operations to the extent that it recognises they are crucial nodes on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Unlike the space and cyber missions, the Chinese military’s electronic warfare mission has been nowhere nearly as divided.

As Xi Jinping put it in his report to the 19 Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), “We must keep it firm in our minds that technology is the core combat capability, encourage innovations in major technologies, and conduct innovations independently. We will strengthen the system for training military personnel, and make our peoples forces innovative.”

India’s stand

India’s approach towards electronic warfare and cyber warfare is nowhere as evolved as that of China’s.

The Indian Army and India are yet to fully acknowledge the convergence between cyber warfare and electronic warfare, whether doctrinally, operationally or organisationally. The Indian Army’s thinking about the relationship between cyber and electronic warfare and how both can play out through the electromagnetic spectrum is, at best, evolving.

Most of the extant work on India’s cyber initiatives centre on threats to critical national infrastructure, government agencies and financial institutions like banks and insurance companies, as well as corporate entities.

To be sure, there are some exceptions within the Indian discourse, which do recognise China’s INEW strategy and the PLA’s quest to synchronise cyber warfare and electronic warfare operations and what India’s response should be. However, they do not engage with both the gaps in India’s capabilities and whether India could learn something from the Chinese experience, its vulnerabilities and establish the extent of a link between synchronised electronic warfare and cyber warfare operations in the context of land operations.

More critically, the Indian Army has yet to develop anything remotely resembling the Chinese INEW approach encompassing cyber warfare and electronic warfare. A likely reason for this is that there is inadequate interaction between the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), which is responsible for formulating and updating service doctrine, and all the technical entities, such as the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Corps of Signals, the Defence Information Assurance and Research Agency (DIARA), and the National Technical Reconnaissance Organisation (NTRO).

Unlike China’s Strategic Support Force (SSF), India lacks a dedicated information warfare service that could be deployed in service-specific missions and military goals. New Delhi’s information warfare capacities are fragmented and lack a clear command structure. India’s electronic warfare capabilities have not matured in the form of miniaturisation to the extent of China’s own. If the IA were to move towards integrating cyber warfare and electronic warfare, it would also need a single operational commander to oversee all combined cyber warfare and electronic warfare activities and personnel within the domain of conventional military operations. As one former IA officer put it, “In order to keep pace with evolutionary changes in tactical doctrine, improvements in army command and control (C2) are required. The rapidly changing combat environment will impose severe time pressures on the staff and the commander.”

The challenge that the Indian Army and the Ministry of Defence face lies in the future. All prospective information based operations will need integration with traditional land warfare military operations; absent a single operational or joint force commander to execute integration, this will be a difficult aim.

However, if the Ministry of Defence and the larger national security establishment see cyber warfare in particular, if not electronic warfare functionally as an exclusively intelligence-related activity and view the electronic warfare domain and cyber domains as discrete, then they risk overlooking the complementarities between cyber and electronic warfare and the opportunities to leverage and synchronise them for kinetic land operations. They also risk undercutting the role of the army commander in integrating cyber and electronic warfare capabilities across multiple lines of operation.

In the event India establishes more integrated commands, the inter-services theatre commander will need greater authority to integrate cyber warfare and electronic warfare for greater network centricity. Authority has to percolate to division and brigade level.

Consequently, some clear recommendations are in order.

Recommendations for Indian Army

First, injecting greater doctrinal clarity on cyber and electronic warfare will help the Indian Army meet its requirements, train, and equip its ground warfare units. The Corps of Signals will and should be the principal source of expertise for training.

Second, based on the foregoing analysis, developing organic CW and EW capabilities is vital for the Indian Army at different echelons, from the corps to brigade level. At the tactical level, more Signals Intelligence personnel will need to be trained in the cyber and electronic domains.

The author is Associate Fellow with the Strategic Studies Programme.

This is an edited excerpt of the paper Electronic and Cyber Warfare: A Comparative Analysis of the PLA and the Indian Army, published originally by the Observer Research Foundation.

Indian Army’s approach to electronic & cyber warfare is nowhere as evolved as China’s PLA


Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
India to launch first simulated space warfare exercise

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Reports of a tabletop war game speak to India’s ongoing efforts to develop its space policy.

Reports of the new wargame IndSpaceEx should be read as part of wider developments. File Photo — Representational.

The Indian government appears to be getting ready to conduct a table-top war game called “IndSpaceEx” involving all stakeholders including the military and the scientific establishment. The reports of such a development, which come against the backdrop of other key developments pertaining to outer space including the demonstration of India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) capability and the establishment of the new tri-service Defence Space Agency (DSA), bear careful watching within the broader perspective of India’s space policy.

For India, space is a domain that has remained relatively peaceful for close to three decades, but is now changing because the nature of politics and competition in outer space is much more contested today. Terrestrial politics is casting a long and heavy shadow on outer space, and India could not have ignored these developments, of which China is just a part.

For India, space is a domain that has remained relatively peaceful for close to three decades, but is now changing because the nature of politics and competition in outer space is much more contested today.

Along with the growing relevance of space to national security and conventional military operations, counter-space capabilities are also being developed in an effort to deny an adversary advantages by the use of space assets. The growth of counter-space capabilities including kinetic physical, non-kinetic physical, electronic, and cyber means has sparked a fresh competition in outer space.

The increasingly contested nature of space has been an impetus to India’s changing approach to outer space, moving from a purely civilian and peaceful approach to one where certain military characteristics are evident, conditioned by changing security realities. Militaries around the world have been emphasising network centricity which in turn brings out the salience of space for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance” (C4ISR), and as they have become more networked, they are also opening themselves up to more and more vulnerabilities, while anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons have also added to the prospects for destabilising scenarios in outer space.

India’s ASAT demonstration earlier this year was important in validating its deterrence capability. Meanwhile, the establishment of the new tri-service Defence Space Agency (DSA), based in Bangalore, is an important institutional initiative that combines two key functions performed by the Defence Imagery Processing and Analysis Centre (DIPAC) in Delhi and the Defence Satellite Control Centre in Bhopal, representing the growing integration of India’s space capabilities.

Reports of the new war game IndSpaceEx should be read as part of these wider developments. One of the reported goals of the IndSpaceEx, to be held towards the end of July under the Integrated Defence Staff of the Ministry of Defence, is to gain a better understanding of the current and emerging challenges in the space security domain.

Another reason the war game is also being undertaken to have a better appreciation of the capabilities that India must develop in order to protect its assets and secure its national interests. India has been growing mindful of the growing number of threats in outer space, both natural and man-made ones. While the global space competition between the key spacefaring powers is a well-known reality, New Delhi has worries about the counter-space capabilities in China’s inventory.

One of the reported goals of the IndSpaceEx, to be held towards the end of July under the Integrated Defence Staff of the Ministry of Defence, is to gain a better understanding of the current and emerging challenges in the space security domain.

Such war games are not uncommon. Indeed, think-tanks and governments in all the major spacefaring countries have conducted table-top and simulation exercises to understand space security crisis dynamics, major vulnerabilities and capability gaps during conflict. These could then feed into policy making. For instance, among the think-tank community in the outer space domain, the Secure World Foundation and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (both based in the United States) as well as the Observer Research Foundation have engaged in several such exercises.

These exercises were done to understand crisis dynamics including decision-making processes, the attainment of national objectives, the changing nature of warfare, and the influence and impact of emerging technologies. Even when these exercises were played with a space security focus, the results have been revealing. For instance, the ORF simulation exercise (SIMEX) conducted over three years has seen remarkable conclusions. Still, states have resisted carrying out attacks on outer space assets due to the fear of escalation.

The Indian government’s proposed war gaming exercise appears to have a slightly narrower agenda in terms of understanding the vulnerabilities and the gaps in India’s space security and identifying areas for India to develop and strengthen in terms of technological capabilities in order to establish effective deterrence capabilities. China has been the single most important factor shaping India’s approach to space. The growing sophistication of its military space programme, including the recent launch of a rocket from a ship, is significant.

The Indian government’s proposed war gaming exercise appears to have a slightly narrower agenda in terms of understanding the vulnerabilities and the gaps in India’s space security and identifying areas for India to develop and strengthen.

Clearly, efforts like the IndSpaceEx are important to determine the degree of the space security challenges India faces and to develop appropriate measures for effective deterrence. But India must step up its efforts to develop global rules and norms about such challenges and threats. While India must continue working towards all-encompassing legally-binding instruments such as the Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), the rising spectre of threats means that more pragmatic and feasible measures should also be attempted because these could see more broad-based support among states. Having demonstrated its ASAT capability, India is in an ideal place to demonstrate its global governance credentials.

India to launch first simulated space warfare exercise | ORF


Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Mission Shakti: Retrospect and prospect

By Shounak Seth | Updated onJuly 30, 2019Published onJuly 30, 2019

As anti-satellite weapons are flourishing in China, India needs to develop such systems in both quality and quantity

Twelve days following the Ides of March, few had any inkling that March 27, 2019, would portend a watershed in India’s strategic trajectory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a 10-minute televised address in Hindi, emphatically declaring that India has become “a global space power” after a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test had just propelled the country to the ranks of the US, Russia, and China.

Acknowledged as a pioneer in cost-effectiveness and societal applications of space technology, this exercise, christened ‘Mission Shakti’ (Sanskrit for “power”), now gives teeth to India’s space programme and military posture and epitomises the shifting gravity of power from the West to the East.

While assuring that the tests were not in violation of international law and wasn’t directed at any specific country, PM Modi unequivocally underlined the military dimension of the exercise — rare for a country with a history of pacifist overtones and often decried for its strategic inertia.

Adopting Direct Ascent Kinetic Kill method, an Indian satellite at 300 km in Low Earth Orbit was targeted and destroyed through collision (rather than warheads) in less than three minutes by a missile fired from the Dr Abdul Kalam Island Launch Complex in the Bay of Bengal.

Individual research from the 1920s notwithstanding, the establishment of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969 heralded the Indian space programme. As the sixth-largest space agency celebrates its golden jubilee, India has slowly and steadily emerged as a pre-eminent space power with 102 spacecraft missions, the largest fleet of civilian satellites in the Asia-Pacific region, a successful inter-planetary Mars Orbiter Mission and a world record of launching 104 satellites from a single rocket.

These scientific and commercial feats weren’t matched by a military space programme; March 27th changed that. ISRO being oriented toward civilian space missions, Mission Shakti was the prerogative of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — the latter publicly conveying the intention for such a test since 2012.

Ballistic Missile Defence

Responsible for the bulk of military research and development, DRDO demonstrates differential levels of success, but its missile programme is noteworthy. Since 2006, a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) project is under way and the ASAT missile appears to be adapted from the BMD interceptor. Scientific rockets and missiles being technologically identical, theoretically any country able to build and operate a ballistic missile can launch rockets and vice versa — and potentially target satellites, too.

However, reality dictates that only a successful BMD facilitates the remarkable precision necessary for a Direct Ascent Kinetic Kill ASAT — few meters in dimension, satellites move in the orbit at approximately 28,000 km per hour, presenting the greatest possible challenge of interception. This exercise then also supplements the indigenous multi-layered BMD programme.

A BMD, by destroying incoming missiles, provides a strategic umbrella, while leveraging extant BMD infrastructure to develop a Kinetic “hit-to-kill” ASAT system, enables a cost-effective space weapon: à la Mission Shakti. ASATs can be either temporarily or permanently effective (denoting “soft” or “hard” kill) and are categorised depending on their nature of deployment, whether they are based in earth, air, or space, and on the technological medium used — missiles, lasers/directed energy beams, electromagnetic pulse, micro-satellites, or electronic jamming. ASAT weapons, once pioneered by the erstwhile Soviet Union and US, are now flourishing in China; the latter, along with conventional capabilities, presents the most formidable challenge to India. The expanding arsenal of Chinese ASAT implies that India needs to develop ASAT systems in both quality and quantity.

Multiple options of both “hard” and “soft” kill would provide the strategic flexibility and proportion for counter-space operations in the face of a powerful and agile adversary. Pakistan’s rudimentary space capabilities mean that the threat to Indian space assets largely stem from China, and reports of the latter engaging in temporary laser targeting of American satellites abound; thus, a standalone Kinetic Kill exercise is a necessary but not sufficient condition for cosmic deterrence.

The traditional Indian stance has been in favour of disarmament and preserving space as a global common; ongoing negotiations at the global stage indicate an impending regime on space weapons which would have probably foreclosed India’s option to test its latent ASAT potential and restricted ASAT capabilities to the US, Russia, and China.

Space is the pivot of modern societies as it facilitates satellite-based communication, remote-sensing, and imaging features to effect across a spectrum of fields: internet and cellular networks, navigation, meteorology, agriculture, resource management, and disaster response. Crucially, security operations are irreversibly dependent on space assets in varying levels of degree from reconnaissance to targeting — sans functioning satellites, fighter jets, ships, and missiles are clumsy chunks of metal.

Central to the governance of space, the Outer Space Treaty (1967) prohibits placing weapons in space itself, but weapons from elsewhere targeting objects in space are not banned; harnessing space technology for strategic utility is routine and universal. Subsequent efforts to restrict weaponisation of space since then has stalled, largely (but not exclusively) due to US disapproval and differing legal and technical interpretations.

The history of anti-satellite weapons run parallel to the history of the Space Age; the 1957 advent of Sputnik sparked interest in space weapons and the ensuing Cold War fuelled the ASAT race with the US and USSR tasting success in 1962 and 1963, respectively. Space weapons proliferated at their pinnacle in the 1980s under President Ronald Regan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, but with the end of the Cold War, Russian military space activities declined to leave the US as the space hegemon since then. However, the growing US-China competition reached the final frontier with a Chinese Kinetic Kill anti-satellite test in 2007 and a reciprocal American one in 2008. The Chinese tests exacerbated India’s security situation, precipitating an Integrated Space Cell within the Ministry of Defence.

Growing military space programmes across the US, China, and Russia, combined with the advent of new technologies like hypersonic glide vehicles and nascent efforts by the United Nations toward “international legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space” further complicated the situation.

India’s contested history with the global nuclear order demonstrates that global regimes often manifest early-mover advantages; unsurprisingly the official press release stated, “India expects to play a role in the future in the drafting of international law on prevention of an arms race in outer space…in its capacity as a major space faring nation…” Indications of expanding offensive space capabilities will be keenly watched but meanwhile this power-projection has secured India’s position as a major space actor and contributed to the deterrence calculus.

The momentum needs to be sustained by further steps including but not limited to coherent space doctrines and a robust and dedicated organisation exclusively for offensive military space activities; these augur for political will and national consensus on the role of India in outer space in the coming era. Technological foundations having been initiated since 2006, arguably the global and regional variables catalysed Mission Shakti. Occurring propitiously close to general elections, Mission Shakti didn’t make the Prime Minister unhappy, but to attribute electoral competition as the proximate cause is to miss the forest in search of the trees.

The writer is a Marie Curie Global India Fellow at King’s College London. This article is by special arrangement with the Centre for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania.

Mission Shakti: Retrospect and prospect


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
India’s power industry comes under increasing cyberattacks from hackers
India’s power sector is facing cyberattacks, with at least 30 events reported daily, said people aware of the development on condition of anonymity.

A majority of the attacks originate from China, Singapore, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. As such, there are growing concerns that the country’s power infrastructure could be the next target of terrorists looking to cripple India’s economy.

Some high- profile cyberattacks include the November 2017 malware attack on THDC Ltd’s Tehri dam in Uttarakhand, the May 2017 ransomware attack on West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd (WBSEDCL), the February 2018 attack on a Rajasthan discom website, and the March 2018 attack on Haryana discoms in which the commercial billing software of the highest paying industrial customers was hacked, according to information reviewed by Mint. The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre also reported several vulnerabilities in the power utilities of states in May 2018.

Ransomware typically logs users out of their own systems and asks them to pay a ransom if they want to access the encrypted data.

India faced massive power transmission failures in July 2012, which left around 700 million people without electricity.

“Tehri’s computer was attached to the power grid’s computer. The threat was eliminated as there was an air gap. If the attack was successful it could have even opened the doors of the dam," said a senior government official.

The issue has assumed greater importance as the country now has an integrated national power grid, with south India joining the national electricity grid in January 2014.

“The hackers even demanded ransom from WBSEDCL, but it was refused. Both West Bengal and Haryana discarded the old systems and put in place a new system. Beyond these, there has been no reported incident of cyberattack on the Indian power sector. There are attacks everyday, but people don’t report. The maximum number of attacks happen on the energy utility sector," said the official quoted above.

There are five regional grids in India—northern, southern, eastern, north-eastern, and western. A grid collapse is the worst-case scenario for any transmission utility. When this happens, states that draw power from a particular network go without electricity.

“The grid at the 132 kv (kilovolts) level that is managed by the states is pretty insecure. Grids between 220 kv and 765 kv are safe," the official said.

“The attacks come from everywhere. A majority of the attacks come from China, Singapore, Russia, and the CIS countries," he said.

The Intelligence Bureau had warned the government in 2009 that substations and regional load despatch centres, both key components of power network, could be targeted.

Substations play a critical role in the generation, transmission, and distribution of power. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) coordinates efforts on cybersecurity issues and is tasked with responding to cyberattacks, the National Technical Research Organisation is the elite technical intelligence agency.

“These types of problems keep on happening and CERT-In keeps on issuing advisories. Application of safeguards is a 24x7 affair. It is an evolving technology. As and when new problem areas surface, new remedial measures are taken in the affected sectors," said a spokesperson of the ministry of electronics and information technology.

Queries emailed to the spokespersons of ministries of home affairs and power, besides THDC, WBSEDCL, Haryana discom, and PGCIL remained unanswered till press time.
India’s power industry comes under increasing cyberattacks from hackers
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Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
ISRO initiates ‘Project NETRA’ to safeguard Indian space assets from debris and other harm

By Madhumathi D.S.
BENGALURU,September 24, 2019 12:46 IST

ISRO takes serious steps at space situational awareness

In the middle of its two-month Chandrayaan-2 campaign, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) last month quietly initiated ‘Project NETRA’ – an early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.

The project estimated to cost ₹400 crore, when in place, will give India its own capability in space situational awareness (SSA) like the other space powers — which is used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites. It also goes so far as to serve as an unstated warning against missile or space attack for the country, experts say.

The space agency says our SSA will first be for low-earth orbits or LEO which have remote-sensing spacecraft. Under NETRA, or Network for space object Tracking and Analysis, the ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities: connected radars, telescopes; data processing units and a control centre. They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.

With this the ISRO, which has placed satellites to track the earth from above, will also start training its eyes onspace from earth.

Space debris could be floating particles from dead satellites or rocket parts that stay in orbit for many years. Satellite agencies agonise over even a speck of paint or fragment floating towards their spacecraft: it disables on board electronics and cripples the satellite worth several hundred crore rupees besides many services that run on it. Agencies constantly look for debris at the time of a launch and through the life of a satellite.

Global action

ISRO Chairman K. Sivan had earlier told The Hindu that the NETRA effort would make India a part of international efforts towards tracking, warning about and mitigating space debris.

NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.

In the plans are a high-precision, long range telescope in Leh and a radar in the North East. “Along with them, we will also use the Multi-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR) that we have put up at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, and the telescopes at Ponmudi and Mount Abu” to get a broad SSA picture, he said.

Dr. Sivan said, “Even now we do collision avoidance manoeuvres on our satellites. To do that we depend on data from NORAD and others available in the public domain but we don’t get accurate [or comprehensive] information. By establishing an observation system of our own, we become part of the global network and can access precise data.”

NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is an initiative of the U.S. and Canada that shares selective debris data with many countries.

The new SSA centre would consolidate debris tracking activities that are now spread across ISRO centres.

Currently there are 15 functional Indian communication satellites in the geostationary orbit of 36,000 km; 13 remote sensing satellites in LEO of up to 2,000 km; and eight navigation satellites in medium earth orbits.

Security ring

More importantly, the SSA also has a military quotient to it and adds a new ring to the country’s overall security, as space and defence experts read it.

NORAD, too, uses satellites, ground and air radars to secure its two countries against attacks from air, space or sea.

“We should have started this kind of an SSA project a long-time back,” said Dinesh Kumar Yadvendra, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre For Joint Warfare Studies, Delhi. “With long-range tracking radars, the SSA also provides us the capability of an early warning system against ballistic missiles coming in at a height.”

S. Chandrashekar, JRD Tata Visiting Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, and also a former ISRO scientist, said, “India, as a responsible space power, should have SSA as a part of a national capability, as in the U.S. This is a vital requirement for protecting our space assets and a force multiplier.”

Apart from radars and telescopes, he said India should also think of deploying satellites that track other satellites — as the U.S. and other space powers had done.

Combined with other elements of military intelligence, he said SSA would help us to understand motives behind any suspicious orbit changes of other satellites and to know if they were spying on or harming our spacecraft.

ISRO initiates ‘Project NETRA’ to safeguard Indian space assets from debris and other harm