Top Stories | Pakistan Observer Newspaper online edition
Enemy, ‘friendly’ satellites monitor Pak nuke sites
Islamabad—At a time when Pakistan is busy fighting internal and external terrorists several foreign satellites are monitoring the region and taking images of Pakistan’s nuclear sites particularly that of near Khushab and exchanging with each others. According to an authoritative source Indian, American, Israeli and French satellites have recently been engaged clandestinely taking images of suspected nuclear sites of Pakistan in an apparent bids to re-play Nuclear Card against Pakistan. Officials here are dismayed by the moves carried out by foes and friends while ignoring the fast growing nuclear and thermo-nuclear projects being worked out in India and Israel.
The latest sharing of satellite images on Pakistan are causing some concern here but experts have rejected a recent report released by American news sources on alleged expansion of Pakistani nuclear programme. MSNBC has recently telecast a detailed report on Pakistan’s nuclear programme while American Institute for Science and International Security is openly displaying latest images of Pakistani nuclear sites gained from foreign satellites in the region. According to Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) a comparison of commercial imagery of the second Khushab reactor from September 3, 2008 and January 30, 2009, shows that in the span of almost four months, there have been few changes to the structures and that there does not appear to be ongoing construction of any additional buildings.
“This indicates that major construction of the buildings associated with the second Khushab reactor may have been completed,” ISIS added and claimed that satellite pictures suggested that Pakistan was preparing for construction of a third nuclear reactor there. According to experts an Indian satellite Cartostat 2-A launched recently is busy sending telemetry data of the region to Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. While another Indian satellite equipped with multi-spectral camera onboard IMS-1 is able to send high quality imagery while the Hyper Spectral Imaging (HySI) camera onboard IMS-1 and panchromatic (PAN) camera onboard Cartosat-2A are working 24 hour to monitor the region.
On the other hand Israeli satellite TecSAR, specially designed as reconnaissance satellite, equipped with synthetic aperture radar and launch by India on 21 January 2008 is also reportedly taking and passing pictures of Pakistan and Iranian nuclear sites. Experts say that Israeli TecSAR satellite is fitted with a large dish-like antenna to transmit and receive radar signals that can penetrate darkness and thick clouds. Meanwhile another Israeli statellite, Ofek-7, also known as Ofeq 7 serving as an earth observation satellite and launched on June 11, 2007 is also equipped with most advanced technology to provide improved imagery.
The United States, Britain, France and Russia are also maintaining over a dozen military satellites tailored to take pictures of suspected nuclear and military sites. What is more bothering for area experts is the fact that drones quipped with latest and most advanced cameras can also supply pictures and images of sensitive areas and plants to the military leaders.
The American Lacrosse radar imaging satellite is one of the leading sources optimized for tactical and strategic military targets partly due to a sophisticated imaging process that involves Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), making it capable of resolving images to within 1 meter. Although the resolution is not as high as the KH series, Lacrosse is an all-weather, day-night satellite and is able to detect and target large objects like ships and aircraft. Lacrosse also uses other radar emissions such as GMTI to track moving vehicles, locate field bunkers up to three meters underground and submerged submarines at periscope depth (40 to 50 feet). Satellite images of sensitive buildings or areas are also available commercially and can be bought from private satellites. For example Ikonos-2 satellite images are said to be among the best available to the public.
They were added to photographs already being collected by military satellites and airplanes for the American National Imagery and Mapping Agency. Ikonos pictures cost buyers up to $200 per square kilometer of imagery plus an extra $3,000 for quick turnaround work. Western news media often pay as much as $500 per picture or image. Ikonos-2 has a camera on board that, when shooting black-and-white photos, can see objects on Earth as small as one meter square (three feet or one yard). The company claims, “You can count the cars in a parking lot, tell which are pickups and sedans, and tell what color they are.”
European photo-reconnaissance planes, including France’s Mirage IV-P and Britain’s Canberra PR-9 also secures pictures and images and make available for military use. The Canberras, flying out of missile range at 50,000 feet (15,245 meters), take pictures of “unbelievable clarity” while French Mirage IV-P with ability to fly very low, hugging the nape of the earth sometimes only 100 feet (30 meters) below the pilot. It can take pictures that include sideways views into mountainsides to disclose caves hidden from cameras in aircraft flying at higher altitudes.
There are also fears that American, Israeli and Indian drones flying in the area can also take images of desired spots or targets but for the time being the U.S. drones have restricted their flight in only designated areas. However, Israeli UAVs some linked with foreign military forces might have made bids to captures pictures of Pakistan’s sensitive areas and establishments. Few years ago Pakistan Air Force had shot down an Israeli UAV operated by Indian Air Force over Pakistani territory.