According to persons familiar with the situation, India hopes to finalize a historic agreement to purchase 31 MQ-9B Predator armed drones from the US by March under a government-to-government arrangement. The US Congress is anticipated to approve the supply within the next few weeks.
Following Washington’s response to India’s Letter of Request (LoR) for the purchase of drones from US defense company General Atomics (GA), US and Indian government officials will convene the last round of procurement discussions, they stated.
India is acquiring “hunter-killer” drones with extended endurance in order to enhance military surveillance, particularly along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
The cost of the acquisition is projected to be around $3 billion, even though the ultimate price of the drones will be determined during the negotiating process.
According to the individuals mentioned above, New Delhi and Washington will assign their corresponding teams to finalize the terms of the agreement, including settling on the price and other details.
They said that closing the purchase by March of the next year is the goal.
The Pentagon would inform General Atomics of the need for the Indian armed forces as part of the established procedure, they said. The agreement will be between the Indian government and American authorities.
It is believed that US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin brought up the subject of India’s planned drone purchase while speaking with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi earlier this month.
Austin said, “It will be announced at the appropriate time,” when asked when the purchase would be finalized during a media conference.
“Once again, you know, we’ll announce the (transaction) at the appropriate moment. I believe that the government and its representatives are making every effort to ensure that that capacity “You (India) acquire that capacity as soon as possible,” he said.
Both parties also came to a deal in June, wherein General Electric, a prominent player in the American aerospace industry, would collaborate with Hindustan Aeronautics Lts to manufacture jet engines for Indian military aircraft in India.
The three military are purchasing Sea Guardian drones because of their versatility in performing tasks including over-the-horizon targeting, anti-submarine warfare, and maritime surveillance.
The Indian Air Force and the Army will each get eight Sky Guardian drones, while the Navy will receive fifteen Sea Guardian drones.
The high-altitude, long-endurance drones can carry four Hellfire missiles and around 450 kg of explosives, and they can stay in the air for more than 35 hours.
In 2020, General Atomics leased two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones to the Indian Navy for a year, to be used for Indian Ocean surveillance. Thereafter, the lease’s duration has been increased.