India is now close to acquiring 30 Predator drones from the United States in a deal that was in the pipeline for a couple of years. A high-level meeting to discuss the acquisition of the 30 Predator drones worth Rs 21,000 crore will be held today by the Defence Ministry.
The Defence Secretary would chair the meeting that will also be attended by senior officials, top Defence Ministry sources told India Today.
If the acquisition goes through in the meeting, then the Defence Minister will forward it to the Defence Acquisition Council. It will then land in the Cabinet Committee on Security for final approval before the contract is finally signed.
The Predator drones will be equipped with advanced systems and weapons packages. These will allow for long-range surveillance and precision strikes. The Defence Ministry's drone shopping list includes the SeaGuardian/SkyGuardian variants of the MQ-9B. According to reports, Indian Army, Navy and Air Force will each get 10 drones with customised specifications.
The Indian Navy is no stranger to drones, it already uses two unarmed SeaGuardian drones which it had leased from the US last year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Navy is the lead service for the acquisition of these drones, according to India Today.
The option of leasing weapon systems has been provisioned under the Defence Procurement Manual 2009 and the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. This helps the Defence Ministry in cutting costs as the responsivity of maintenance falls on the vendor.
Indian armed forces have been showing faith in US systems for surveillance requirements for the past few years. The Indian Navy is already using as many as nine P-8I long-range surveillance planes. It is also expected to get another nine over the next few years.
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