Home India India and US Aim to Conclude MQ-9B Deal by early Next Year

India and US Aim to Conclude MQ-9B Deal by early Next Year

India is on the verge of finalizing a significant agreement to acquire 31 MQ-9B Predator armed drones from the United States through a government-to-government framework by March. Insiders familiar with the situation have indicated that the US Congress is likely to approve the supplies within the next few weeks.

The conclusive round of negotiations between American and Indian government officials is scheduled to take place following Washington’s response to India’s Letter of Request (LoR) for the procurement of drones from the US defense major General Atomics (GA), according to sources.

India is acquiring long-endurance ‘hunter-killer’ drones to enhance the surveillance capabilities of the armed forces, particularly along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

While the exact price of the drones will be determined through the negotiation process, preliminary estimates suggest that the procurement is likely to incur a cost of approximately USD 3 billion.

According to the individuals mentioned earlier, both New Delhi and Washington will assign their respective teams to solidify the deal, which involves settling the cost and addressing other details. The aim is to seal the deal by March next year, they said.

As per the established procedure, the agreement will be forged between the Indian government and American authorities. Subsequently, the Pentagon will communicate the Indian armed forces’ requirements to General Atomics, as indicated by the sources.

It is known that the matter of India’s intended acquisition of drones was discussed during the talks between US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi earlier this month.

When questioned about the timeline for finalizing the procurement, Austin stated during a media briefing that the announcement will be made at the appropriate time.

“Well, again, you know, we’ve — at the right time, we’ll announce the (deal). I think the government, the officials in the government are doing everything necessary to make sure that that capability… you (India) get that capability as quickly as possible,” he said.

In June, an agreement was reached between the two parties, wherein American aerospace major General Electric would collaborate with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to manufacture jet engines for Indian military aircraft within India.

The procurement of Sea Guardian drones is intended for all three services, given their versatility in performing various roles such as maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, and over-the-horizon targeting.

These high-altitude long-endurance drones have the capability to stay in the air for more than 35 hours and are equipped to carry four Hellfire missiles along with approximately 450 kilograms of bombs.

In 2020, the Indian Navy leased two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from General Atomics for one year for surveillance purposes in the Indian Ocean. The lease period has since been extended.


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