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India Demonstrates Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Weapon; Becomes 4th Space Warfare-ready Country

Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the successful testing of anti-satellite (ASAT) missile, which destroyed a predetermined target of a defunct satellite in low earth orbit. The missile testing was a part of “Mission Shakti” and the demonstration makes India the fourth country in the world that has the ability to destroy low orbit satellites. The 3 countries that are equipped with such technology are China, Russia, and the United States of America. There have been no instances of deployment of ASAT in warfare. However, some countries have used it to destroy their own defunct satellites.

ASAT or an anti-satellite missile(also known as ASAT System) is usually launched using a missile canister from ground or it can be mounted to an fighter aircraft for launching from air.  Enemy satellites, which are in low earth orbit that is within an altitude of 2,000 kilometers, can be destroyed using ASAT. The missile is specifically used for space warfare. As a part of Mission Shakti, the ASAT missile developed by DRDO (Defense Research Development Organization) and was tested today. It took 3 minutes to intercept the target.

Until the early 1980s, many countries defense strategies didn’t include building and testing ASAT missiles. The United States Air Force-built ASM-135 ASAT on September 13, 1985, was launched to destroy Solwind P78-1, an American gamma ray spectroscopy satellite launched in 1979. The missile was launched from a modified F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft. Soviet Union has also conducted the testing around the same time. However, it was USA, who pioneered the demonstration.

In an NDTV organized interview in 2018, S Christopher, the chairman of DRDO explained about India’s strength in intercontinental ballistic missile, the Agni V. When questioned about the possibility of using Agni V as an ASAT missile, he said “Any ballistic missile that can go for a thousand kilometers plus height wise can be used as an ASAT. Agni-V could not be the only means, other satellite with same capability can work as well”.

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