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India Advances Towards Finalizing Landmark Deal For 31 MQ-9B Predator Drones From The US

The primary objective behind India's procurement of these long-endurance 'hunter-killer' drones is to enhance the surveillance capabilities of its armed forces, particularly along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

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India is on track to finalize a significant deal for the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B Predator armed drones from the United States. The transaction, expected to be completed by March under a government-to-government framework, is currently undergoing the final stages of negotiation between American and Indian government officials. The impending approval by the US Congress is anticipated in the coming weeks, as reported by PTI.

The primary objective behind India's procurement of these long-endurance 'hunter-killer' drones is to enhance the surveillance capabilities of its armed forces, particularly along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. The drones are expected to play a crucial role in bolstering India's defense apparatus.

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While the exact cost of the procurement is yet to be finalized during the ongoing negotiations, estimates suggest that the deal could amount to approximately USD 3 billion. Teams from both New Delhi and Washington are actively working on the finer details of the agreement, with the goal of sealing the deal by March next year.

The procurement process adheres to a well-defined protocol, with the agreement being established between the Indian government and US authorities. The Pentagon will subsequently communicate the requirements of the Indian armed forces to General Atomics, the US defense major responsible for manufacturing the MQ-9B Predator drones.

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The issue of India's drone procurement was a topic of discussion during talks between US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi earlier this month. Austin, during a media briefing, assured that the announcement of the deal would be made at the appropriate time, emphasizing the commitment to ensuring India's swift acquisition of the capability.

This development follows a previous agreement in June, where General Electric, an American aerospace major, joined forces with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to produce jet engines for Indian military aircraft within India's borders.

The Sea Guardian drones, part of this procurement, will be distributed among the three services. The Navy is set to receive 15 Sea Guardian drones, while the Indian Air Force and the Army will each be equipped with eight Sky Guardian drones. These high-altitude, long-endurance drones boast an impressive capability to remain airborne for over 35 hours, carrying four Hellfire missiles and around 450 kgs of bombs.

It is noteworthy that the Indian Navy had previously leased two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from General Atomics in 2020 for surveillance in the Indian Ocean. The lease period has been extended after the initial one-year term, underscoring the significance of these drones in bolstering India's maritime security.

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