History could be afoot in Washington D.C., if not today, then in the very near future. With India poised to enter the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a 34 nation club that oversees the “prevention of proliferation of missile and UAV technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload for at least 300 km”, many doors that have been shut for years will finally be open. India formally applied to be a member of the MTCR last year, and its hopes have mostly ridden in President Obama’s personal assurances to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If things go through, it will be a historic break away from the conspicuous and wholly incongruous isolation India has faced from a club of 34 nations, many of which have an inferior technology proliferation record than India’s own. In order of apparent priority, here are four things that India will be hoping to quickly embark upon with an MTCR membership:
- Predator XP and Avenger hunter killer drones. The Indian Navy is interested in acquiring at least 40 Predator XP drones for surveillance manufactured by U.S. firm General Atomics. The optionally armed XP variant has been out of bounds so far as a result of MTCR export restrictions that the U.S is bound by. While the U.S had cleared General Atomics to begin discussions last year on the unarmed variant of the Predator, the Indian Air Force is also looking keenly at the possibility of a future acquisition of up to 100 Avenger hunter-killer drones. Either procurement would be government-to-government. With MTCR, the door swings open.
- BrahMos exports to friendly countries. Even though the BrahMos’ stated range is 290 km, ten kilometres under the MTCR’s upper stipulated limit of 300 km, India has been sensitive about exporting the system outside the aegis of the regime. With MTCR sanction, India has the badge-pin it needs to process interest from countries like UAE, Chile and South Africa, but especially wrap up a contract with Vietnam as the the likely first international customer of the BrahMos.
- Long-Range Missiles on Indian submarines. India currently operates the Russian leased INS Chakra nuclear-powered submarine, a platform capable of deploying strategic weapons, but in service with India under a non-combat clause and devoid of long-range missiles as a result of Russia’s MTCR commitments. India’s membership of the regime ramps up possibilities in configuration for a second submarine that India is said to be in discussions for.
- India’s UCAV programme. India is currently in the very early stages of conceptualising a stealth UCAV platform designated the Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV), a programme first reported here on Livefist. As things solidify over the next few years, India’s MTCR membership will allow it access to critical technologies it may need from abroad. It should be said that firms like BAE Systems, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Airbus, Dassault and RAC-MiG have shown interest in working with India on its futuristic UAS concept, but will be limited by MTCR commitments of their countries. That changes with India in the MTCR club.