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Aiming safer communication, Army conducts Exercise Skylight


NEW DELHI: Keeping the future warfare in mind, which the Indian Army feels will be dominated by technologies, the force has carried out “Exercise Skylight” for the first to ensure operational readiness of all satellite-based systems.

For making its communication faster and safer against enemy hacking it has also initiated work in the sphere of Quantum Computing also.

The across the country exercise conducted from July 24 to 29 included areas right from Jammu & Kashmir to the southern point, eastern and western parts of the country and the island territories like Andaman and Lakshadweep.

Sources in the defence establishment said, “The objective of the exercise was to ensure operational readiness of hi-tech satellite systems and personnel manning these. In this exercise, 100% of all satellite communication assets in the Indian Army were activated and various technical and operational scenarios in the space domain were played up. Various agencies responsible for space and ground segments, as also ISRO participated in the exercise.”

Adding further the sources informed that in this exercise, more than 200 static terminals, over 80 transportable vehicles and man-portable-based systems were tested. With the successful validation of all communication satellites, the Indian Army has planned to hold such exercises regularly to review the operational preparedness of the systems.

During the exercise, the communication satellite performed well even in bad weather, snowbound areas and rains. The troops on the ground did not face any challenges in receiving the information or messages from the Command. 

Keeping the aim of the exercise, the Army involved several external agencies including ISRO, they said.

Indian Army has begun working for its independent satellite as currently, Indian Army doesn’t have its own satellite and is taking service of a number of ISRO satellites. There are over hundreds of communication terminals of various types connected on ISRO satellites.

It is pertinent to mention here that currently, India has only two dedicated military satellites — the GSAT-7 (Rukmini) and GSAT-7A (Angry Bird) — used by the Indian Navy and Air Force respectively.

In March this year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh-headed Defence Acquisition Council has accorded approval of GSAT-7B for the Indian Army, which has been designed as first of its kind indigenous multiband satellite with advanced security features.

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Sources said, “By 2025, we will get this satellite communication system which will make the military related communications safer. “During wartime, the communication system plays a significant role in gaining ground over enemy forces and it is the terrestrial communications which get affected when a fight breaks out.” 

The Army is keeping a close watch on the Russia-Ukraine conflict for lessons back home. The Indian Army has also conducted a study on military communication systems and electronic warfare in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war. The study stressed the need for enhancing the space-based communication system.

The sources pointed out, “The Ukrainian forces have experienced it during the ongoing war with Russia. The work of all terrestrial Internet operators was easily blocked since it was an important channel for the transmission of operational information and data which is of paramount importance.”

It will be important for India's northern frontiers. “In India’s northern front – bordering China, the geographic situation is such that the chances of the terrestrial communication system failing is high. So, space-based communication is of utmost need for carrying out operations smoothly.”

The Indian Army also is taking initiatives in another emerging technology called Quantum Computing which enables the computers to solve problems too complex for classical computers.

It is significant for information security as “there is an urgent requirement of replacing traditional cryptography with quantum-safe and quantum-resistant cryptographic methods.”

“While Quantum Secrecy is a national interest, military information systems, which are currently based on hardware-based crypto platforms relying on mathematical computational complexity, will render Operational Information vulnerable to Quantum attacks by adversaries.” Said the sources.  

“One of the key applications of Quantum Computing is in the area of Information secrecy. Traditional cryptographic systems will be completely or partially cracked with Quantum Computers in a matter of minutes. Such a military capability will be a massive weapon to threaten sensitive systems of any country, thereby threatening national sovereignty in multiple ways.”

Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) involves the generation of highly advanced secrecy keys which can be effectively employed towards securing backbone networks. Since massive OFC infrastructure has already been created through Project NFS which has a pan India spread covering the entire Defence Network, the Indian Army is already prepared to embrace QKD on the infrastructure front.

In collaboration with the Industry and academia, the Indian Army has been focusing to develop Quantum Computing applications for Communications and Cryptography.

“Indian Army has already taken the lead by way of establishing a Quantum Lab for evolving advanced concepts for applications and ushering further R&D on related technologies in collaboration with industry and academia. Information Warriors of the Army will be armed with the requisite knowledge which will facilitate in smooth induction of Quantum systems,” sources said.