India's first-ever dedicated military satellite, Rukmini of GSAT-7, "seamlessly networked" around 60 warships and 75 aircraft during the massive month-long naval combat exercise in the Bay of Bengal that ended on Friday.
The location of the exercise "Tropex", or the theatre-level readiness and operational exercise, was significant since India is steadily bolstering military force-levels on the eastern coast and Andaman and Nicobar archipelago to counter China's strategic moves in the critical Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The exercise saw the western and eastern fleets — commanded by Rear Admirals Anil Chawla and Atul Jain, respectively — amassing across the Bay of Bengal for the intensive combat manoeuvres in all the three dimensions of "surface, air and underwater".
"Tropex provided the Navy with an opportunity to validate its network-centric warfare capabilities with the effective utilization of GSAT-7, which was launched last year,'' said an officer.
The geostationary naval communication and surveillance satellite, which has a 2,000-nautical mile footprint over the IOR, beams signals from its UHF, S, Ku and C-band transponders to network all warships and aircraft with operational centres ashore through high-speed encrypted data-links.
"The exercise also assessed the operational readiness of warships, validated the Navy's war-fighting doctrine and integrated newly-acquired capabilities in its concept of operations," said the officer.
Apart from GSAT-7, the exercise this year also saw the "maiden participation" of nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, on a 10-year lease from Russia for $1 billion, and the newly-acquired P-8I long range maritime patrol aircraft.
While the over 8,000-tonne INS Chakra is not armed with long-range nuclear missiles because of international treaties like the Missile Technology Control Regime, it serves as "a potent hunter-killer'' of enemy warships and submarines, apart from being capable of firing land-attack cruise missiles.
INS Chakra adds some desperately-needed muscle to underwater combat arm at a time when the Navy is grappling with just 13 ageing diesel-electric submarines, three of which are stuck in life-extension refits. Another one, INS Sindhuratna, will now have to undergo repairs after Wednesday's battery mishap that killed two officers and injured several others.
As for the P-8Is, the Navy has till now inducted three of the eight such sensor and radar-packed aircraft ordered in 2009 for $2.1billion from the US. Also armed with potent anti-submarine warfare capabilities, the P-8Is are working in conjunction with medium-range Dorniers and Israeli Searcher-II and Heron UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to create a three-tier surveillance grid in the heavily-militarised IOR. India, in fact, is in the process of ordering another four P-8I aircraft.