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In a significant revelation, it has come to light that US reconnaissance aircraft closely monitored India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test conducted in 2019. This information, initially reported by a civilian aircraft spotter on Twitter, underscores the intricate surveillance capabilities employed by global superpowers during critical defense events.

The Twitter account Aircraft Spots, known for tracking military flights, reported that an RC-135S aircraft of the US Air Force departed from the US military base at Diego Garcia. The spotter stated that the aircraft was on a mission in the Bay of Bengal to monitor India’s ASAT missile test. This test, conducted by India in March 2019, successfully demonstrated its ability to destroy satellites in low Earth orbit, marking a significant milestone in the country’s defense capabilities.

When discussing reconnaissance or “spy planes,” iconic aircraft like the U-2 and various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) often come to mind. However, the RC-135S and its derivatives represent some of the most advanced reconnaissance systems ever developed. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and electronic surveillance equipment, the RC-135S is specifically designed to collect and analyze telemetry and other data from missile tests and space launches.

The aircraft’s capabilities include intercepting and decoding signals from a wide array of sources, providing comprehensive situational awareness and detailed intelligence. This makes the RC-135S a critical asset for monitoring significant military activities worldwide, such as India’s ASAT missile test.

In addition to the RC-135S, the WC-135R, another aircraft from the same family, was also deployed from Diego Garcia. The WC-135R, often referred to as the “Constant Phoenix,” is primarily used for atmospheric sampling to detect nuclear explosions. Its presence in the region during India’s ASAT test highlights the breadth of the US surveillance operation, aimed at gathering as much data as possible about the test’s execution and its implications.

India’s ASAT missile test, conducted under Mission Shakti, involved the interception and destruction of a live satellite in low Earth orbit. The successful test placed India among the select group of nations possessing ASAT capabilities, alongside the United States, Russia, and China. The test drew global attention, with various countries closely monitoring the event due to its strategic and security implications.

The monitoring of India’s ASAT missile test by US reconnaissance aircraft underscores the global importance of such defense capabilities. ASAT weapons can significantly alter the strategic balance, as they provide the capability to disrupt or destroy enemy satellites, which are crucial for communication, navigation, and surveillance.

The data collected by the RC-135S and WC-135R would have provided the US with valuable insights into the technical and strategic aspects of India’s ASAT capabilities. This information is essential for understanding the evolving defense landscape and preparing for potential future scenarios involving space-based assets.