NEW DELHI: Ahead of the Modi-Biden meeting on Friday, India has issued the formal request to the US government for the mega acquisition of 31 top-notch weaponised MQ-9B Reaper or Predator-B drones, aiming to ink the final contract within this financial year.
The defence ministry sent the detailed LoR (letter of request) for the 31 ‘hunter-killer’ remotely-piloted aircraft systems, along with their weapons packages, mobile ground control systems and other equipment, “a few days ago” to the US, top sources told TOI on Thursday.
The Biden administration, in turn, will now respond with the LoA (letter of offer and acceptance), with the costing and the requisite notification to the US Congress under its foreign military sales (FMS) programme, “within a month or two”, the sources said.
The final price of the 31 drones — 15 Sea Guardians for Navy and 16 Sky Guardians for Army and IAF — will then be sealed by the two sides. The defence ministry’s initial nod on June 15 had “noted” an estimated cost of almost $3.1 billion for the deal, as was reported by TOI.
“The push is to sign the actual contract for the high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drones within this fiscal, if not within this calendar year, after clearance from the cabinet committee on security,” a source said.
“The armed forces are keen to complete the induction of all the drones, which will be ‘assembled’ in India by manufacturer General Atomics (GA), over the next six to seven years,” he added.
Far more capable than the armed drones with China, which has also been supplying Cai Hong-4 and Wing Loong-II drones to Pakistan, the MQ-9Bs will add muscle to India’s long-range surveillance and precision strike capabilities both in the Indian Ocean Region as well as the land frontiers with China and Pakistan.
The LoR spells out the specific requirements of the three services for the drones and their payloads, which includes the naval ones being equipped with maritime patrol radars.
The deal will also involve GA setting up a “cost-effective and comprehensive global maintenance, repair, overhaul facility” in India, apart from also sourcing some components from Indian firms.
The fighter-sized MQ-9B drones are designed to fly for around 40 hours at altitudes over 40,000-feet for over-the-horizon ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) missions and are armed with Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and smart bombs for precision strikes.
The two unarmed Sea Guardians, acquired by the Indian Navy on lease from General Atomics in September 2020, incidentally, have been effectively used for high-end ISR missions both in the IOR as well as along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control with China.
The MQ-9B deal is also expected to help DRDO develop indigenous HALE drones capable of firing missiles and precision-guided munitions on enemy targets before returning to their home bases.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *