The Defence Ministry on Thursday gave its approval for acquiring Predator (MQ-9 Reaper) armed drones from the US for which the final decision would be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Washington on June 21.
The high-altitude long-endurance drones come armed with strike missiles which can take out enemy targets with pinpoint accuracy. The drones will also be used for long-range surveillance along the borders and maritime areas of the country.
“The deal for the Predator drones was given approval by the Defence Acquisition Council meeting today. The acquisition proposal will now have to follow a procedure after which it will have to be cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security,” ANI quoted defence sources as saying.
The Indian Navy is the lead agency for the deal in which 15 drones will be going to the maritime force for surveillance operations in its area of responsibility, ANI reported.
Another 8 drones each are expected to be shared by the Indian Air Force and Army taking the total deal to around $3billion (Rs 22,000 crore).
The three services also have plans of acquiring similar drones of medium altitude and long endurance from indigenous sources.
The decision comes in the backdrop of China stepping up the production of armed drones which have also been supplied to Pakistan.
According to a Reuters report, India has long expressed interest in buying large armed drones from the United States but bureaucratic stumbling blocks have hampered a hoped-for deal for SeaGuardian drones.”
Since the date for PM Modi’s visit was fixed, the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and White House have asked India to be able to show progress on the deal for as many as 30 armable MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones made by General Atomics, Reuters cited two sources as saying.
PM Modi and President Joe Biden are also expected to discuss co-production of munitions and ground vehicles, like armored personnel carriers, during the Indian PM’s visit in Washington, the Reuters report added.
PM Modi is scheduled to visit the US from June 21 to 24, where US President Joe Biden will host him at the White House. This will be PM Modi’s first state visit to the US during his nine-year tenure so far.