Modi government to fast-track acquisition of lethal Predator drones for Indian Navy and Indian Army

guardian drones India

India is expected to fast track General Atomics Predator MQ9’s for both Indian Navy and Army. Highly placed sources told FE Online that, “Initially the Indian Navy was keen on 22 units initially, due to high interest from the Indian Army for this platform, each service will now process a case for 10 unmanned aircraft each”.

Sources indicate both governments are keen to conclude that deal in 2019.

As has been reported earlier by The FE, “In an unprecedented move the US had announced the discussion of Category 1 UAV’s when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the US in June 2017 and met President Donald Trump.”

Renowned US aerospace leader Dr Vivek Lall who was then Chief Executive for Strategic Development with General Atomics spearheaded the effort and the US made the unprecedented release of armed drones to India.

The FE was the first to write about the Indian Army’s interest in purchasing General Atomics Avenger UAVs. The request from the Indian Army for the UAVs was one of the major agenda of talks in June 2017 between when the then US Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The Avenger (formerly Predator C) is an unmanned aerial vehicle built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the US forces. Unlike the previous MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) drones, the Avenger is powered by a turbofan engine, and its design includes stealth features such as internal weapons storage, and an S-shaped exhaust for reduced infrared and radar signatures.

With the US confirming category one UAV technology, Sea Guardian drones have been released per India’s request. The Sea Guardian, built by US firm General Atomics, is the naval version of the Predator B armed drone. The Indian Air Force has also requested for 100 units of Predator C Avenger aircraft worth $8 bn. Given the capabilities and effectiveness of the Sea Guardian, offering these drones to the Indian Navy for $ 2 bn demonstrates a major change in the US policy.

In 2016, the navy had sent a request letter for 22 Sea Guardians to the American company. The Sea Guardian is exported to a very few select countries by the US administration and India will soon be joining that group.

India has been designated as a Major Defense Partner (MDP) of the US and committed to expanding the scope of India’s MDP status and both countries have to take mutually agreed upon steps to strengthen defence ties further and promote better defence and security coordination and cooperation.

The US has also included India among the top tier of countries entitled to license-free exports, re-exports, and transfers under License Exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA-1) and also committed to exploring other means to support further expansion in two-way trade in defence items and defence manufacturing supply chain linkages.

As has been reported earlier, both countries have inked a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that will facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing US-origin platforms. These platforms include C-130 J, C-17, P-8I aircraft, and Apache and Chinook helicopters.

The two sides are soon going to start negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration.

SOURCE : Financial Express



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