The first C-130J Super Hercules built by Lockheed Martin for the IAF on its first ever flight on 4th October. The aircraft is likely to be delivered in December
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Oct 10
Officials coordinating next month’s visit to India of American president, Barak Obama, have been told to rule out a big-ticket signing ceremony for two defence safeguards agreements that the US has pressed for. Senior MoD sources tell Business Standard that Defence Minister AK Antony, during his visit to Washington last month, bluntly told US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that India would not sign the agreements, which Washington calls the “foundation” for transferring high-tech communications equipment to India.
The two agreements are: a Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
In addition, Mr Antony also conveyed India’s unwillingness to sign a Logistics Support Agreement, or LSA, which would allow either country’s military units to plug into the military logistics infrastructure of the other, anywhere in the world, with accounting on a book debit basis.
Remarks a MoD official who was present during the meetings in Washington, “People who believe that Mr Antony is a mild man who does not take strong positions should have seen the clarity with which he told the US delegation that India sees no benefits in signing these agreements.”
Advising Antony not to sign the CISMOA and BECA is India’s military. The IAF believes that these seemingly innocuous agreements --- which bind India to safeguard US communication equipment and codes that the American military also uses --- would also ensure that US-sourced equipment with the IAF, such as the C-130J Super Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, remains interoperable with US forces.
“The US is keen to operate with us”, explains a senior IAF air marshal. “We see no benefits in being interoperable with them. So why should we be hustled into signing these agreements?”
The Pentagon has been arguing that, without the CISMOA and BECA, India would get less than cutting-edge electronics on the systems that it buys from the US. During a visit to New Delhi on 20th Jan 10, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had remarked, “[These agreements] are preponderantly in India’s benefit, because they give high-tech systems additional high-tech capabilities… are enablers, if you will, to the very highest quality equipment.”
But, on Thursday, the IAF head, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, rejected that logic, insisting that the absence of the CISMOA and BECA ““will not make any substantial difference to our operational capabilities.”
Now, leaked contract documents appear to support the air chief’s viewpoint. A draft contract for the six C-130J Super Hercules transporters that India bought from Lockheed Martin (posted on the Indian military blog, Livefist, and verified as correct by Lockheed Martin sources) reveals that just five items have been denied to India as a result of the non-signature of CISMOA and BECA.
The draft contract notes that the five items “are deleted/changed from the C-130J India Air Force (sic) configuration at this time. These items may be added when CISMOA is signed between USG (US Government) and Government of India.”
These items are all communications interfaces between the aircraft, and friendly forces on the ground. Since the C-130J is customised for Special Forces operations --- especially air-transporting commandos to a landing area that has been secured by friendly ground forces --- the aircraft needs secure communications links between the airborne and the ground forces, including an identification system to ensure that an enemy radio cannot lure the C-130J to an unsecured landing ground through a fake message.
The IAF believes that it can make do with the commercially available electronics that have been fitted in the C-130J as alternatives to the US Air Force’s safeguarded systems. The US Air Force systems that have been denied: AN/ARC-222 (SINCGARS) Key Generator; Mode 4 Crypto Applique; Secure Voice (HF); Secure Voice (UHF & VHF); and Voice SATCOM.