US Expected to Fast Track Indian Requests for Predator UAV Drones for Indian Army and Navy
- A Letter of Agreement (LoA) from the Trump administration is expected soon for the Indian government’s requests for ten each `Predator MQ9’ UAVs for both the Indian Army and Navy.
- The drones will come through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and a contract will be signed between the two governments and M/s US-based General Atomics. Both countries are expected to close the deal this year.
- Highly placed sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online that, “The US administration has been informed about clubbing the requests of both Indian Army and Navy in an effort to expedite the process. The Indian Navy was keen on 22 units earlier. However, initially, due to high interest from the Indian Army for this platform, it was decided it that each service will get 10 unmanned aircraft each”.
- These drones are separate from the approval given by the Trump administration for 100 armed drones for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
- The US government has already initiated its internal processing for 100 armed drones for the IAF. Though the Indian armed forces have been using Israeli drones, according to industry sources the UAVs from General Atomics will be a game changer given the geopolitics of the region.
- As has been reported by the Financial Express Online earlier, the critical `Category One’ UAV technology for the Navy’s request for the Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems deal of $ 2 bn has already been released by the Trump administration.
- The Indian Navy had sent a request for the Sea Guardians UAV which is exported to a very few select countries by the US administration in 2016. Once India gets this, it will be joining the elite group of countries who have these UAVs.
- The request for UAVs for the Indian Army was first made in 2017, the former US Secretary of Defence James Mattis met with the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. And this was also discussed when the two had met in New Delhi for the first ever 2+2 India-US Strategic Dialogue.
- Both countries have inked the logistics exchange memorandum of agreement (LEMOA), which is one of the foundational agreements in 2016 and last September had inked the ‘Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA)’ under which transfer of encrypted communication security equipment from the US to India is allowed. The platforms include the recently acquired Chinook Helicopters, soon to arrive Apache Helicopters, C-130 J, C-17, and P-8I aircraft.
- It was after a positive meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump in 2017, the US had announced the discussion of Category 1 UAVs for India.