Saturday, November 13, 2010

Strategic Strokes

Aviation Week & Space Technology Nov 15 , 2010 , p. 46
Neelam Mathews
New Delhi

Obama’s visit to India stokes agreements, but not on everything
Security Pact Remains U.S.-India Sticking Point

The Indian air force is exploring upgrade options for U.S. military aircraft that will be handed over without key capabilities in the absence of an agreement governing those systems.

The U.S. is withholding several subsystems until India ratifies the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement, which governs current and future transfers of intelligence systems to India. India is not ready to commit to the security pact and instead is willing to take slightly less capable U.S. systems initially, expecting to backfill the missing features later.

The strategy will be tested when the Indian air force starts taking delivery of six Lockheed Martin C-130Js next month. They are the first U.S.-built aircraft the country has acquired in 40 years.

Taking the military transports with some features mis­sing is controversial, but service leader Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik says “it will not make a substantial difference to our operational capabilities.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed President Barack Obama’s support of a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council for India and relaxation of export controls on high-technology goods.Credit: REUTERS/LANDOV
The aircraft will arrive on the heels of last week’s state visit by President Barack Obama, who backed India’s long-sought goal of becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Obama also removed Indian companies and government organizations from the U.S. Entities list of restricted exports, a clause that has been blamed for holding back India’s development of major missile systems and space programs.

“We welcome the decision by the U.S. to lift controls on export of high-technology items . . . to India and support India’s membership in multilateral export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. “We have agreed on steps to expand our cooperation in the space, civil nuclear, defense and other high-end sectors.”

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (the country’s prime production agency for missile systems) as well as many of their respective laboratories are set to benefit from the Entities list action. Laboratories at DRDO dropped from the list include the Armament Research and Development Establishment, Defense Research and Development Laboratory, Missile Research and Development Complex and the Solid-State Physics Laboratory. ISRO’s subordinate entities include the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center, Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant, Sriharikota Space Center—the country’s only launch complex—and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center.

While ISRO was able to locally produce numerous components after the U.S.-imposed sanctions in 1998 in response to India’s nuclear test program, the country’s space endeavor still suffered development delays.
In an address to the Indian parliament, Obama pressed legislators to remove barriers to foreign investment, which India caps at 26%.

India’s refusal to sign the security pact was not discussed publicly but has been a sticking point between the two countries. Still, India is purchasing 10 C-17 heavy-lift military transports, eight P-8I maritime patrol jets, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Apache attack helicopters and Chinook transport helicopters, all manufactured by Boeing. Anticipating the announcement, Boeing noted prior to Obama’s visit that the Harpoons would not be ensnared by the security pact.

Service officials say discussions are already underway with Israel and France on ways to upgrade the C-130Js to sidestep the security pact. Those talks date back almost a year and cover purchase of advanced encrypted communications equipment for the Indian C-130Js. However, the U.S. would have to approve the upgrade, an Indian air force acquisition official notes.

The equipment India wants that is off the list mostly centers on communications, including the AN/ARC-222 Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (Sincgars), Raytheon KV-119 IFF Digital Transponder, Tacterm/ANDVT Secure Voice (HF) terminal and the Vinson KY-58 Secure Voice (UHF/VHF) module.
“The technology that is being withheld is some excellent communications equipment that the [Indian air force] would do well to own and operate, especially since special operations are part of the fleet profile,” the acquisition officer says. “However, considering the larger political picture, it has been generally agreed that sourcing such equipment from a third party will not pose an operational problem. We are in discussions with all concerned regarding the integration of such equipment on a [U.S.-provided] platform.”

Although the first C-130J handover is slated for next month, the aircraft is not due in India until February and is likely to first appear at Aero India 2011 that month.

Other aircraft on order subject to the communications technology hold include the eight P-8Is (four more are to be ordered shortly) and the C-17s, which are by far India’s largest deal to date with the U.S. government.
The real concern about the lack of ratification of the security pact is in the Indian army. The service has remained largely silent about the equipment situation; but an officer with the parachute regiment who participated in a joint transport and parachute drill with U.S. forces late last year says that the denied technology is vital for special operations missions.

“It is possibly the best communications kit available anywhere. We can choose to get it from somewhere else, or go all the way and get it from the U.S.,” he asserts.

Senior U.S. government officials note that the next step on the security pact and a Logistics Support Agreement is up to India. Washington argues it needs to spend more time “educating” the Indian government about the advantages of the two accords. So far, India is holding firm that it does not want to sign on.
India’s Defense Procurement Policy 2010, which says military offsets need to tap only related industries, is expected to include a small percentage of aviation-related manufacturers by the end of the year. “This is a win-win situation,” says one defense ministry official. “We will now speed up procurement for materials, test equipment and machinery. That should make our projects move faster [and] U.S. companies will get more business.”

Besides the $5-billion C-17 deal, there was an order for 107 General Electric F414 engines for India’s Light Combat Aircraft valued at $822 million. There also were several team arrangements. Software developer Palantir Technologies of Palo Alto, Calif., says it will help the Maharashtra State Police to identify security threats, and Implant Sciences of Wilmington, Mass., will provide its Quantum Sniffer H-150 explosives detection technology to the Indian army.

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