The US is planning to use the services of an Indian satellite to get quicker weather information in war-torn Afghanistan, crucial for the movement of its military assets, the Pentagon has said.
The Pentagon decided to use Indian satellite after European weather satellites were moved to cover operations in Iraq and Syria, following which it explored the possibility of taking the services of Chinese satellites but dropped the idea after initial evaluation due to hacking apprehensions by the Chinese.
As a result, the Pentagon decided to use Indian satellite which is already operational and whose data is available at various American universities, senior Pentagon officials told US lawmakers during Congressional hearing on ‘Weather Satellite Programs’ convened by the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on Environment.
“Europe’s Meteosat 8 is going to cover the critical components of our operations in Syria and Iraq. We will experience a short gap over eastern Afghanistan and our plan there is to work cooperatively with India to use Indian data to close that gap,” Ralph Stoffler, director of weather, deputy chief of staff for operations, US Air Force, told Congressmen in response to a question.
“The Indian satellite is already operational. It’s already there. The data is already available here in the US at a variety of Universities. It’s a matter of getting it here quicker and more efficiently so we can use it operationally,” Stoffler said.
“We are working in conjunction with our NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) partners to make that happen for us,” he said.
Responding to a question, Stoffler said India was not the first option for the Pentagon.
“We were planning all along that the Europeans would provide us the capabilities over the Indian Ocean. They, like us, had their own priorities,” he said.
“We looked at all alternative options. Certainly, there are other geostationary capabilities over the Indian Ocean, provided both by Russia and China. Our systems are capable of receiving Chinese data and we did an evaluation of that,” he added.
But, we were told by NOAA that unless Chinese data was really operationally needed, we should not use it, he said.
Once we were told that Chinese data is off the table, we had to find another alternative and we plan to use Indian satellite, the Pentagon official said.