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US-India deal: Conclusion of BECA to open doors for high-tech arms

Becoming a BECA signatory will take India into a select group of long-range missile powers, which can strike targets thousands of kilometres away with an accuracy of 100 metres or less

US India relations

Alokananda Chakraborty  |  Mumbai 


The MoD also confirmed the conclusion of the last remaining “defence foundational agreement” — the so-called Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geospatial Intelligence.

“The two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit,” said the MoD.

In explaining the benefits of this agreement for India, the bland rationale that is publicly offered is that BECA would allow India’s military to access a range of US topographical, nautical and aeronautical data, including the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA’s) “geospatial information bank”.

Less publicly acknowledged is the fact that becoming a BECA signatory will take India into a select group of long-range missile powers, which can strike targets thousands of kilometres away with an accuracy of 100 metres or less.

Most long-range missiles are guided by “inertial navigation systems” (INS) over the course of their flight. As an INS-guided missile travels towards its target, however, small navigational errors build up. These errors are best corrected through signals received from highly accurate navigation satellite networks, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) run by the US Department of Defense.

The classified military signal of GPS is reputed to have an accuracy of one metre. If, over a segment of its flight, the INS of a long-range missile builds up an error, the GPS military signal can be referenced to correct it. However, accessing the GPS military signal requires a country to sign BECA.

Signing BECA would also allow India to receive advanced navigational aids and flight management systems for several types of aircraft procured from the US, including the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Super Hercules and the P8-I Poseidon.

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First Published: Tue, October 27 2020. 13:20 IST