Indo-US Defence Relations and DTTI

By Team Q-Tech

India-US bilateral relations have  their own dynamics and imperatives and recently developed into a global strategic partnership.The foundational agreements  and Defence Trade and Technology Initiative will facilitate collaboration and ease the transfer of US high-technology in defence sector.

Indo-US relations have their own dynamics and imperatives.The ties between the two countries have witnessed rapid expansion in different fields from trade to science, technology, and defence in the recent past. In 2001, both countries affirmed their commitments to transforming the bilateral relationship and inherent strength. The civil nuclear energy cooperation, the ‘New Framework for India-U.S. Defense Relations’ and the resulting intensification in defence trade, joint exercises, personnel exchanges, collaboration and cooperation in maritime security and counter-piracy, and exchanges between each of the three services were inked in 2015. There has been collaboration in other sectors also apart from defence.

Foundational Agreements

At present, India-US bilateral relations have developed into a "global strategic partnership," and their Defense relationship has now been extended until 2025. The latter is evident from the recent outcome of the Indian PM's visit to the USA which is the "third major bilateral summit," after September 2014 and January 2015. Apart from securing entry into MTCR, the United States (US) has assured full support for the membership of NSG, a significant achievement has been the recognition of India as a vital defence partner by USand its readiness to share defence technologies to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners. The United States has also re-affirmed its support for India's early membership of the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement.

Under Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), US  has made proposals in specific areas for participation in multinational operations, expanding two-way defence trade, expanding collaboration on missile defence, conducting exchanges on defence strategy and increasing intelligence cooperation, etc and co-manufacture and co-develop modern defence equipment with India. India and the US are moving towards signing three "foundational agreements" that will facilitate collaboration and ease the transfer of US high-technology. These are:

  • Logistics Support Agreement (LSA)

The agreement has been signed during the recent visit of Defence Minister to the US. It will provide access supplies, spare parts, and services from each other's land facilities, air bases and ports, which can be reimbursed and it does not provide automatic access to the use of military bases.

  • Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA)

The CISMOA would enable India to get encrypted communications equipment and systems allowing military commanders to communicate with aircraft and ships through a secure network as the advanced radio needed for an aircraft to talk to the submerged submarine is protected by CISMOA. The US insists on CISMOA as a condition for supplying this equipment because it is afraid its advanced technology may leak out to India's other defence partners, especially Russia.

  • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)

The BECA would provide India with topographical and aeronautical data and products, which will aid geospatial intelligence, navigation, and targeting. This also relates to digital mapping especially accurate targeting with long-range missiles.

Logistics Support Agreements (LSAs) has been given an India-specific name Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). In the same way negotiations on CISMOA, now called Communications Compatibility And Security Agreement (COMCASA).

The other relevant agreements are:

  • The Navies of both sides to continue discussions to identify specific areas for expanding maritime cooperation.
  • Knowledge partnership in defence studies between the United States and Indian National Defence Universities to help shape the next generation of military leaders.
  • Facilitate cooperation in defence research and development.
  • Enhance joint military exercises and broader cooperation in cyber security.
  • Joint weapons development.
  • To cooperate on India's efforts to establish a Defence Industrial Base (DIB) in India, including through initiatives like 'Make in India.'
  • Deepening collaboration to combat the full spectrum of terrorist threats.
  • DRDO and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have agreed only to joint development of explosive detection systems and C4I systems.

Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI)

DTTI, launched in 2012, is an unprecedented joint endeavor that brings sustained leadership focus to the bilateral defence trade relationship, creates opportunities for US-India in developing new areas of technical cooperation in the defence sector including co-production and co-development, and fosters more sophisticated science and technology cooperation and, thus, assumes significance.

DTTI aims at enhancing the existing one under the Defence Policy Group which lays out the path for future defence cooperation and will be significant as it could take the government's 'Make-in-India' initiative further. In September 2014, both Governmentsdecided to establish a task force to expeditiously evaluate and decide on unique projects and technologies which would have a transformative impact on bilateral defence relations and enhance India's defence industry and military capabilities. The US said to have offered India some hi-tech items of military hardware for co-production and co-development under DTTI. Although the details of technologies for the co-development & co-production on offer are not known, however, the following is the likely list:-

  • Javelin, an infra-red guided missile, co-development.
  • Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for aircraft carriers.
  • M777 155 mm Howitzer.
  • Vehicle-Based Mines Scattering System,
  • Scorpion mutation bomb with in-built sensors that allow command centers to target enemy convoys accurately.
  • Micro-observers or unattended ground sensors for deployment on the border.
  • MH-60R helicopters and drones.
  • Hot-engine technology for indigenous light combat aircraft Mark II.
  • Signature Aperture Radar that can penetrate thick forests.
  • Stealth-coating technology that deadens radar images for minimum radar profile and maximum survivability in hostile conditions.
  • Long-endurance high-altitude Global Hawk UAV.
  • Hand-held Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) RQ-11, "Raven" for tactical surveillance.
  • Specialized surveillance and intelligence gathering equipment 'roll-on roll-off' for the C-130-J transport planes.
  • Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources (MEHPS), a non-grid-tied smart power system with output ranging from 300W to 800KW, to augment traditional generators on the battlefield.
  • Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, a configured head-to-toe individual fighting system, for land-based soldiers.
  • High-end counter-IED technologies.

Identified Pathfinder Projects

However, in terms of tangible deliverables, the two countries have identified and formalized 'pathfinder projects' for co-production and co-development understandings and are likely to be ice-breakers. The “pathfinder projects” include:

  • Next-generation Raven mini-unmanned aerial vehicles (actually they are micro-UAVs) that infantry platoons can launch for battlefield surveillance. The Aero Vironment RQ-11 Raven, 10 km range, hand-launched surveillance UAV, which was inducted into US army in 2001 and is currently used by 23 countries including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are most widely used UAV for tactical surveillance. AeroVironment is developing the next generation Cheel UAV along with Dynamatic Technologies. The prototype is expected to be ready in 12 months.
  • Roll-on, roll-off kits for US-supplied C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, which are light aircraft interiors that allow the C-130J to be quickly configured for different missions like para-dropping, cargo-carrying, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance and medical evacuation.
  • Mobile electric hybrid power (MEHP)a non-grid-tied smart power system with output ranging from 300W to 800KW to augment traditional generators on the battlefield. Source for various utilizations, which could potentially be scaled up into an “air-independent power system” for submarines.
  • Uniform Integrated Protection Ensemble Increment II or protective clothing for soldiers in nuclear, chemical or biologically contaminated battlefields.
  • General Atomics Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System for India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier; and hot section jet engine technology by GE for unspecified projects.
  • Possible cooperation on development of advanced jet engine technology.

Indian Requirement Projections

India has requested for detailed proposals and licence requirements under the bilateral DTTI for the undermentioned key advanced technologies:-

  • Hot-engine technology for indigenous light combat aircraft Mark II to be powered by GE-414 jet engine. This technology allows a fighter to operate in hot weather conditions like in deserts without any possibility of an engine failure.
  • Raytheon-manufactured Signature Aperture Radar that can penetrate thick forests.
  • Stealth-coating technology. The coating deadens radar images and would give Indian jets minimum radar profile and maximum survivability in hostile conditions.
  • Long-endurance high-altitude UAV, the Global Hawk, being manufactured by Northrop Grumman. Equipped with synthetic aperture radar, the drone can fly at an altitude of 65,000 feet, stay air-bound for more than 14 hours and survey up to 40,000 sq km terrain in a day.
  • Textron-manufactured Scorpion mutation bomb, used for protecting military installations.
  • India has made a renewed pitch to acquire armed drones from the US during defence minister Manohar Parrikar's visit, to meet a requirement of the air force for a stealth cross border strike option. US has already offered unarmed, a reconnaissance version of the Predator for an Indian Navy requirement, however reluctance referring international regulations on  Indian request for armed Predator Drones as India has not signed two military pacts - the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

Most of the projects under DTTI are likely to be under Government-To-Government (G2G) deal, also known as Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program or Inter-Governmental Agreements. There  are number of joint working groups to identify areas for co-development and co-production in aircraft carrier technology, land systems, naval systems, air systems, and other systems. In their latest round, India and the US have identified small air launch unmanned aerial vehicles and a lightweight, small arms technology project along with aircraft maintenance for defense collaboration. The two sides also talked about virtual, augmented mixed reality for aircraft maintenance. The combined weapons and ammunition offer a 40 percent weight reduction and improved accuracy. The ammo uses full polymer casings that significantly reduced weight and give less heat transfer and recoil.

Implications for India

India is diversifying its acquisition sources beyond Russia to Western countries with the aim that future defence acquisitions must simultaneously lead to a transformative change in the country's defence technology base and manufacturing prowess. However, none of the recent deals with the US have included transfer-of-technology (ToT) clauses. The Government's ‘Make in India’ campaign is to co-manufacturing and co-developing weaponry, rather than simply buying them from the US. However, USA's rigid export control regimes laying conditions for technology transfer is too time-consuming and may not be acceptable.With the US looking more at trade and India at technology, the initiative would bring not only high technology but also upgrade Indian defence manufacturing sector by familiarizing the Indian companies with best global practices, while giving a boost to Indian defence exports.

FMS route is ideal in respect of high-tech, low volume systems, which no other nation possesses or is ready to offer. This route is also better for complex weapon systems as India can get them duly integrated and configured. The FMS route, while absolving the MoD from the tough decisions of competitive bidding, effectively surrenders the leverage of a buyer.

The Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), helps the US to tap the Indian market potential, but at the same time, knowhow of technology would make India less dependent on manufacturer at the time of repairing, upgrading and support. India-US defence relations ties are commercial in nature, as hardly any convergence in strategic interests between the two countries. Notwithstanding above, the two countries will continue to deal, and the ties will only become stronger because of the enormous economic potential in the two countries.



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