Without CISMOA, U.S. M-MRCA Contenders Come Minus Kit

Without a communications interoperability and security memorandum of agreement (CISMOA) or information security (INFOSEC) agreement between India and the United States, the Boeing F/A-18I Super Hornet and Lockheed-Martin F-16IN Super Viper -- both contenders in the IAF's $12-billion M-MRCA aircraft competition -- won't come with certain pieces of equipment that are categorized under the highly restricted US C4ISR list. While a specific list of the withheld equipment is not yet available, my sources sent me this list:

* IFF transponder equipment (Mode IV IFF CRYPTO)
* "KY" radios
* Data links
* Sensor source codes for all AN/APG

According to the same sources, US rules dictate that exceptions can be made on a case by case basis, and that India doesn't need to sign the CISMOA if it is granted a waiver by the US government. However, that may not be the case any more. To quote from a 16 March 2006 policy memorandum authored by USAF Lt Gen (Retd) Jeffrey B. Kohler, then head of the Pentagon's foreign military sales agency (and since 2008, VP at Boeing IDS for international strategy):

Transfers of U.S. C4ISR systems to eligible countries and international organizations must support a U.S. Combatant Commander’s (COCOM) interoperability requirements. The COCOM must require the transfer of the capability. A purchaser’s desire to be interoperable with the United States is insufficient justification for release. Additionally, the purchaser must negotiate and sign a Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) or other bilateral INFOSEC agreement (e.g., COMSEC MOU, INFOSEC Equipment Agreement) with the COCOM, prior to physically receiving any U.S. INFOSEC products or services associated with a secure C4ISR system. The COCOM and the purchaser’s authorized official sign the bilateral CISMOA unless covered under a multilateral treaty and/or separate bilateral agreements, which negates the requirement to sign a CISMOA. The COCOM may negotiate exceptions to a CISMOA on a case-by-case basis. A purchaser should be approved for access to classified C4ISR data and INFOSEC prior to submitting a C4ISR Letter of Request (LOR).

Interestingly, a year later on 23 March 2007, Kohler rescinded the earlier policy. In the new one, among a lot else, the line noting the possibility of exceptions to CISMOA on a case-by-case basis was summarily expunged. No exceptions.

When I asked the Indian Air Force chief last in October last year about his concerns with the CISMOA overhang and what it would strip from American aircraft being delivered to his force, he had said it would make no substantial difference. Someone needs to ask him specifically about the M-MRCA.

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