Space, Cyber and Special forces Command in India


India has floundered for long in setting up effective and unified structures to deal with threats in space and cyberspace.


  • The armed forces are now finalizing the plan for creation of three new tri-Service commands to handle space, cyber and Special Forces, which will be “critical” in deploying capabilities for conventional as well asymmetric warfare in a unified manner.
  • Space and cyber warfare are two such domains where most modern militaries have focused on.
  • The US pushed the Iranian nuclear programme back by use of the Stuxnet virus.
  • Russian and Chinese governments have also been suspected of using tools of cyber warfare against other countries.
  • China has also demonstrated its capabilities of space warfare by shooting down a satellite, challenging the American prowess in that field.

What is cyber warfare?

  • Cyber warfare involves the actions by a nation-state or international organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation’s computers or information networks through, for example, computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks.
  • RAND research provides recommendations to military and civilian decision makers on methods of defending against the damaging effects of cyber warfare on a nation’s digital infrastructure.
  • Cyber warfare is the use of hacking to conduct attacks on a target’s strategic or tactical resources for the purposes of espionage or sabotage.


  • In 2010, Stuxnet, which was designed to attack industrial programmable logic controllers  was directed against the Iranian nuclear programme. Since the discovery of the Stuxnet malware, other “cyber weapons” have made their appearance.
  • Wiper, a new virus: was reported in April 2012 that was much more malicious, and wiped off the data on all computers that it infected. This virus largely affected networks inIran.

What are its implications on society?

  • Espionage: Espionage means taking information that wasn’t meant for individual.
  • Sabotage: Also called “direct action”, this is when we take an active role and go out there and so something. In cyber warfare sabotage can be something as benign as dropping a government’s website to causing a nuclear meltdown at a nuclear plant.
  • Hacking: Hacking means an illegal intrusion into a computer system and network.
  • Cyber stalking: This term is used to refer to the use of the internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person.
  • Propaganda: Where the aim is to control information and influence public opinion.
  • Viruses, computer worms and malware that can take down water supplies, transportation system, power grids, critical infrastructure and military systems.

How does cyber warfare work?

  • Nation/state sponsored hackers attack computers and networks that are involved with sensitive resources within a country.

Who does it target?

  • Cyber warfare targets any sensitive industry in once opponent’s infrastructure.
  • Cyber warfare could target the population of a country.
  • It is a direct and grave threat to the national security of the country.

What need to be done?

  • The chiefs of Staff Committee, comprising of three military chiefs had asked the government for establishing three new military commands in these domains- cyber, space, and special operations.
  • These commands were proposed to be raised tri-service command, modeled on the Andaman and Nicobar Command, thereby also enhancing jointness among the three defence services.
  • Promoting integration and jointness among services.
  • The lack of single point military commander or advisor.
  • India does not have a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or a Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee(PCCOSC), who would have then overseen these joint agencies and give them due importance
  • The creation of a CDS or PCCOSC have been delayed, any further delay will only prevent India from leveraging its military power effectively.
  • India needs a strong deterrence policy in order to tackle cyber attacks.
  • Promoting research and development in the academia to cyber attack.
  • Use of modern technologies like big data, artificial intelligence.
  • A separate committee to review recent cyber policy.
  • The creation of special agency for-Space

Government’s steps to tackle cyber warfare:

National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC)

  • The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has announced that the first phase of National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) has become operational.
  • NCCC has been set up to scan the country’s web traffic to detect cyber security threats. It scans the cyberspace in the country for cyber security threat.
  • It scans the cyberspace in the country for cyber security threats at metadata level to generate situational awareness.
  • It derives its powers as per provisions of section 69B of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Rules notified thereunder.
  • The Department of Information Technology created the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team(CERT-In) in 2004 to thwart cyber attacks in India

What is ‘Space’ Warfare?

  • Space warfare is combat that takes place in outer space. Space warfare therefore includes ground-to-space warfare, such as attacking satellites from the Earth, as well as space-to-space warfare, such as satellites attacking satellites
  • Only a few incidents of space warfare have occurred in world history, and all involved training missions, as opposed to actions against real opposing forces. In the mid-1980s a USAF pilot in an F-15 successfully shot down the P78-1, a communications satellite in a 345-mile (555 km) orbit.
  • In 2007 China used a missile system to destroy one of its obsolete satellites (see 2007 Chinese anti-satellite missile test), and in 2008 the United States similarly destroyed its malfunctioning satellite USA-193.
  • As of 2017 there have been no human casualties resulting from conflict in space.

India and Space Warfare

  • The launch of GSAT-7 by means of an Ariane-5 vehicle of the European space transportation company, Arianespace,  has come as a shot in the arm for the Indian defence set up. For this 2,550-kg multi band satellite designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will serve as an exclusive satellite of the Indian Navy, the youngest of the Indian services. The significance of GSAT-7 lies in the fact that it is the first dedicated military satellite that India has put in place. As envisaged now, the safe and reliable communication channels provided by GSAT-7 satellite, will help the Indian Navy strengthen its blue water combat capabilities in all its manifestations. With its 2000 nautical miles footprint over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), GSAT -7 will help Indian Navy network all its 140 warships, 13 submarines and 200 aircraft along with its ground based “resources and assets.”
  • The launch of India’s first full fledged navigation satellite IRNSS-1A on July 2 is a development that could positively impact on the battlefield strategy of the Indian defence forces. IRNSS-1A, the first of the seven spacecraft constituting the space segment of the home-grown Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), would provide the Indian defence forces a robust system for location identification and navigational support for combat aircraft as well as for combat platforms on land and sea. For the defence forces in the thick of the battle field operations, a GPS system like IRNSS enables locating objects in the dark and paves way for the coordination of the troop movements even in hitherto unfamiliar territory in addition to facilitating reconnaissance as well as search and rescue operations. For the Indian defence forces which had difficult times accessing the “restricted capability” of the US GPS system, IRNSS would provide hassle free, uninterrupted access to the satellite navigational capabilities.


  • The Special Forces of India refer to those units which are under the direct command of the Indian military and specifically organised, trained, and are equipped to conduct and support special operations.
  • Some of these are MARCOS of the Navy (about 700 plus may eventually grow to 2,000, plus case for a Marine Brigade is pending with the government), Garuds of Air Force, 2xSpecial Groups (SGs) of SFF under the Cabinet Secretariat, the Aviation Research Centre (ARC) under the Cabinet Secretariat and 2xSpecial Action Groups (SAGs) of NSG under MHA (5,000 plus+ expansion of NSG is underway). These forces have hardly been strategically used for politico-military missions across the border.


The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

  • CDS will be the single-point military advisor to the Government from any of the three Services and will be of four-star rank.
  • CDS will head India’s Strategic Forces Command as well as the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command
  • The most important peace-time job would be to reconcile budgetary and equipment demands of the three services.


  • The Naresh Chandra Task Force (NCTF), constituted by the UPA in 2010, recommended appointing of a Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (PC COSC), pending eventual CCS approval for CDS.
  • Instead of a dual-halted responsibility being filled part time, by a floating chairman (as he is also the Chief of his own service) with changes in tenancy on retirements/ superannuation of the incumbent, a much-needed reform of creating a new appointment of Permanent Chairman Chief of Staff Committee (PC COSC) was proposed for the interim.
  • The present arrangement of the senior most Service Chief additionally tenanting the appointment of Chairman COSC is inadequate. Combined responsibility is not only overwhelming, often resulting in neglect and delay, but it can also place two roles in conflict.


India has traditionally been a land power and, yes, the primary threats are still on land, from the northern and western borders. But the threat matrix has changed since 1947 and the Indian Ocean region is fast metamorphosing into a major arena of friction, with increasing forays by the Chinese Navy and building up of regional navies with help from China. Also, while the threat of war stills exists in the subcontinent under the nuclear overhang, the room for large conventional manoeuvres is over. In a conflict situation, what would unfold are short and swift skirmishes which call for agility and swift action by the three services in unison. Therefore, Information sharing is essential to protection of critical infrastructure and to furthering cyber security.

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