India shoots down satellite in space; Modi hails major breakthrough

The United States performed the first anti-satellite test in 1959, when satellites themselves were rare and new.

Bold Orion, a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile repurposed to attack satellites, was launched from a bomber and passed close enough to the Explorer 6 satellite that it would have been destroyed if the nuclear warhead had been live.

The Soviet Union performed similar tests. In the 1960s and early 1970s, it tested a weapon that would be launched into orbit, approach enemy satellites and destroy them with an explosive charge, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In 1985, the United States tested the AGM-135, launched from an F-15 fighter, destroying an American satellite called Solwind P78-1.

There were no tests for more than 20 years, until 2007, when China entered the anti-satellite arena.

The next year, the United States carried out Operation Burnt Frost, using a ship-launched SM-3 missile to destroy a defunct spy satellite.

But Modi who is heading a Hindu nationalist-led government has taken a consistently strong position on national security, launching air strikes last month on a suspected militant camp in Pakistan that led to retaliatory raids by Pakistan in a dramatic ratcheting up of tensions between the nuclear-rivals.

Lele said India had in all likelihood destroyed its own satellite in the three-minute test conducted on Wednesday.

“India has used a missile that had no warhead, so there is only a metal strip on top of the missile or a metal part and the missile shoots that metal into space, and because of the impact a kinetic energy gets generated that creates further impact,” he said.

Tensions between India and Pakistan remain high. India’s big concern is China’s defence assistance to Pakistan including in its missile programmes and analysts say the fear is that Islamabad turns to Beijing for help to neutralise any Indian advantage such as the latest test in space capabilities.

“I don’t think Pakistan has acquired that level of accomplishment yet by itself, but Pakistan is no longer seen alone,” said Uday Bhaskar, director of Society for Policy Studies, another Delhi think-tank.

“Pakistan and China have a very deep strategic kind of partnership. So some kind of sharing of capabilities can’t be ignored.”

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