In a decisive move, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted its approval on Thursday for the procurement of armed Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from General Atomics, solidifying a significant deal between India and the United States. The long-anticipated announcement is expected to take place during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit next week.
Led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the DAC convened on Thursday morning to address the pressing matter of acquiring High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs. Several sources in the defence and security establishment have confirmed that the deal has been successfully approved, marking a pivotal milestone in India’s defense capabilities.
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The DAC approval has come for world’s best armed ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capable 30 MQ9B Predator Drones from General Atomics through government to government and through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.
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The approval is for 30 armed UAVs and the Navy will receive a larger share of 14 drones compared to the Army and Air Force which will get eight each. The deal is expected to be around US $2.5 billion taking into account additional provisions for Maintenance, Overhaul, and Repair (MRO) of the platforms, as stated by senior officials.
These drones are not even available with Ukraine. India joins the elite group of countries to get this platform.
Originally intended for a total of 30 UAVs, with 10 allocated to each service, the revised agreement recognizes the Navy’s urgent requirement for HALE platforms. These advanced drones will significantly augment the Navy’s maritime surveillance capabilities over the vast Indian Ocean Region, easing the operational burden on the P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.
Financial Express Online has reported earlier the Indian Navy previously leased two MQ-9As in 2020, a lease that has since been extended. In November 2022, General Atomics proudly announced that the RPAs completed an impressive 10,000 flight hours over two years, with the inaugural flight taking place on November 21, 2020. The MQ-9s have been instrumental in enabling the Indian Navy to effectively cover over 14 million square miles of its designated operating area.
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The Guardian, the maritime variant of the Predator MQ-9, boasts an impressive maximum endurance of 40 hours and can soar to a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet. Equipped with a comprehensive 360-degree maritime surveillance radar and an optional multimode maritime surface search radar, this advanced drone promises to bolster India’s maritime security capabilities significantly.
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These lethal drones have reported great success in various ISR operations and armed conflicts. And are exported by the US to its close partners. The Indian Navy is already operating two drones which it has leased from the company and has been very satisfied with the outcome. Once the final contract is signed and the delivery starts, jointness amongst the Indian Armed Forces will be exhibited.
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Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online that in view of the Chinese growing presence in the region, there is an urgent requirement of these drones in India.
The US based General Atomics has already announced manufacturing and hi-tech tie-ups with the Indian defence companies which will help to create a drone eco-system in India based on the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi