India is all set to seal a long-conceived proposal to procure 30 multi-mission armed Predator Drones from the United States for the three defence services of the country. The procurement of the drones will be at an estimated cost of over USD 3 billion (around Rs. 22,000 crores).
Reportedly, the proposal for acquiring the MQ-9B long-endurance drones, armed with air-to-ground missiles, is likely to be cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council in the next few weeks after which it will be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security led by Prime Minister.
The various key aspects of the procurement of predator drones from the United States, including the cost components and the weapons package have already been finalized and the mega-deal is set to be sealed with the United States by the current fiscal.
• The proposal for the procurement of predator drones from the United States has been moved by the Indian Navy and all three services are likely to get 10 drones each.
• The armed forces of India have been focusing on procuring unmanned platforms including the armed drones following the Eastern Ladakh standoff with China and a drone strike on the Jammu airbase.
• Explosives laden drones were earlier used to carry out the attack on the Jammu Air Force station in June 2021. It was done in the first such instance of suspected Pakistan-based terrorists deploying unmanned vehicles to strike at military installations in India.
Predator Drones of the US: Key Features
1. The remotely piloted predator drones are capable of remaining airborne for around 35 hours.
2. The drones can be deployed on a range of missions including reconnaissance, surveillance, destroying enemy targets and intelligence gathering.
3. The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Predator B-drone is the first hunter-killer UAV that has been designed for long-endurance and high-altitude surveillance.
4. The predator drones have been manufactured by the US defence major General Atomics.
Armed drones deal between US and India
The United States, in 2019, had approved the sale of armed drones to India and had even offered integrated air and missile defence systems.
In 2020, the Indian Navy had received two Predator drones on lease from the United States. It was primarily for surveillance over the Indian Ocean.
The two non-weaponized MQ-9B drones were also leased for the period of one year with an option of extending the period of another year.