- The LoR lists the specific needs of the three services for the drones and their payloads.
- This MQ-9B deal is also expected to help the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) make its own HALE drones
Before Modi and Biden’s meeting on Friday, India asked the US government to sell it at least 31 improved Predator-B drones, also called MQ-9B Reapers. After being turned into weapons, the drones come with highly skilled defense technology. The deal should be finished by the end of this fiscal year.
The Ministry of Defense recently sent out a full Letter of Request (LoR) for these 31 remotely-piloted “hunter-killer” aircraft systems, complete with their weapons, mobile ground control systems, and other equipment. On Thursday that this request had been made to the United States a few days ago.
In response, the Biden administration is expected to send a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA) to the US Congress as part of its foreign military sales (FMS) program. The LoA will include details about the cost and the required notification. The same sources say that this answer should come in the next month or two.
The final price for getting these 31 drones will be decided by talks between the two countries. There are 15 Sea Guardians for the Navy and 16 Sky Guardians for the Army and Indian Air Force. It’s important to note that the first approval from the defense ministry, which came on June 15, put the cost of the deal at about $3.1 billion.
The plan is to get an official contract for these high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drones by the end of the current fiscal year or at the very least by the end of this calendar year, if the cabinet committee on security gives its approval. The military is excited to get all of these drones, which will be made by General Atomics (GA) and put together in India over the next six to seven years.
When compared to China’s armed drones, the MQ-9Bs are much more powerful. Pakistan has been getting drones from China. These drones are called Cai Hong-4 and Wing Loong-II. With the increase of MQ-9Bs, India will be able to do better long-range surveillance and accurate strikes in the Indian Ocean Region and along its land borders with China and Pakistan.
The LoR lists the specific needs of the three services for the drones and their payloads. For example, naval drones need to be equipped with radars for marine patrol.
As part of the deal, General Atomics will build a comprehensive and cost-effective maintenance and repair center for the whole world in India. It will also buy certain parts from Indian manufacturers.
The MQ-9B drones are about the same size as fighter planes. They are made for long missions and can fly for up to 40 hours at altitudes above 40,000 feet. They have smart bombs and Hellfire air-to-ground rockets for making accurate attacks.
The Indian Navy has been using two unarmed Sea Guardians leased from General Atomics since September 2020 for high-end ISR tasks in the Indian Ocean Region and along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control with China.
This MQ-9B deal is also expected to help the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) make its own HALE drones that can fire missiles and precision-guided weapons at enemy targets before returning to their home bases.