Everything You Need to Know About India’s A-SAT Weapon System Test
Hello, namaskar, and welcome to another episode of The Big Story podcast. I’m Vishnu Gopinath, and today we’re looking at India’s first successful anti-satellite (A-SAT) weaponry test aka Mission Shakti. We have senior defence analyst Ajay Lele joining us on this podcast.
With Mission Shakti, India’s become just one of four countries in the world to have successfully tested an A-SAT weapon system. Why is this so impressive? What is the A-SAT weapon system and is it true that India was ready with anti-satellite missile system technology all the way back in 2012?
Listen to the podcast for the story!
“I think this is a significant achievement as far as space is concerned. It’s more of an achievement of the space and military domain. Space is just a target over there. More importantly what’s required is political will to do it and the capability to do it.”Ajay Lele, Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Mission Shakti: Everything You Need to Know
So first, let’s tell you everything you need to know about Mission Shakti. Mission Shakti was India’s first successful test of the country’s first A-SAT or anti-satellite weapon system. It destroyed a test satellite at a distance of 300 km in space. A-SATs are space weapons that are designed to destroy satellites for strategic military purposes.
But here’s what sets this A-SAT system apart. The A-SAT weapon system was entirely made in India.
The A-SAT system was entirely made by the DRDO aka the Defence Research and Development Organisation. The DRDO used its Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor, which is part of India’s ongoing ballistic missile defence programme, for this test.
An A-SAT weapon is a long-range missile with an explosive payload attached at its tip. The weapon system, combined with the warhead or the explosive payload, can lock on to a target, intercept it, engage, and destroy it, in one precise, deadly strike.
In the words of PM Modi, the mission destroyed the test satellite with “remarkable precision” in just three minutes. The target destroyed was an old, out-of-service Indian satellite. This test makes India only the fourth country ever to successfully test an Anti-Satellite weapon system, after the US, Russia and China.
Impressive. Right? But wait. There’s more, that PM Modi forgot to say.
Former DRDO chief Vijay Kumar Saraswat had said, in an interview to India Today, that India had the tech for this system… in 2012! That’s right. India’s had the ability to test this, since 2012. But, you know, they chose to test it now. Why would they do that?
No, no, of course it had nothing to do with the 2019 elections and muscle flexing, how outrageous!
Earlier, India used to run simulation tests. This was the first physical test. So what WAS the point of this big demonstration?
Test-Firing a Missile to Prove a Point?
But seriously though, can a country just TEST FIRE a missile on another old satellite… to prove a point???
Apparently it can.
Cool. But remember. The missile was shot straight into space, to hit a satellite at a 300 km orbit. So once the satellite is destroyed, where does the debris go? Won’t it fall back onto Earth and cause destruction? Perhaps not, says Ajay Lele. He says that the debris would burn up on re-entry into the Earth’s orbit and get destroyed long before it hits the Earth.
Opposition: Modi Steals Credit for Others’ Work and Tries to Distract From Real Issues
Now that the physical concerns have been laid to rest, here’s how the Opposition reacted to Modi ji’s big announcement about Mission Shakti.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi congratulated the DRDO on the mission’s success... and then wished Modi ji, “Happy Theatre Day”.
Both Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati congratulated the DRDO, but added that Modi had used India’s achievement for electoral gains adding that “as usual Modi likes to take credit for everything.”
Of course, some of these reactions make sense, given that PM Modi made this announcement bang in the middle of election season, AFTER the Model Code of Conduct came into effect.
So will this turn into an issue of whether Modi violated the Model Code of Conduct? Well if it does, we’ll be the first to tell you.