India Overcomes Initial Obstacle in Acquisition of 31 US MQ-9B SkyGuardian Drones

India Overcomes Initial Obstacle in Acquisition of 31 US MQ-9B SkyGuardian Drones

Washington DC - The US State Department has granted approval for a potential sale of 31 armed MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, missiles, and accompanying equipment to India, with an estimated value of USD 4 billion. This decision comes seven months after India expressed its intention to acquire the drones during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's state visit to Washington DC.

The Pentagon, announcing the approval on Thursday, revealed that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency had provided the necessary certification to notify the US Congress of the potential sale. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency stated on Thursday night that the State Department had determined the approval for a Foreign Military Sale to the Government of India, encompassing MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment, estimated at $3.99 billion.

The requested items from the Indian government include 31 MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft, 161 Embedded Global Positioning & Inertial Navigation Systems (EGIs), 35 L3 Rio Grande Communications Intelligence Sensor Suites, 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 16 M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDB), and 8 GBU-39B/B LSDB Guided Test Vehicles (GTVs) with live fuzes. Additional equipment comprises ground control stations, missile launchers, tactical training rounds, high-frequency radios, and radars.

The Pentagon emphasized that this proposed sale aligns with the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States, aiming to strengthen the strategic relationship between the US and India while enhancing the security of a key defense partner in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.

The Pentagon asserted that the sale will enhance India's capabilities to address current and future threats through unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation. It emphasized India's commitment to modernizing its military and anticipated no challenges in integrating the acquired articles and services into its armed forces.

The primary contractor for this deal is expected to be General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway, CA. The Pentagon also mentioned that any offset agreement would be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller highlighted the significant potential of the proposed mega drone deal in advancing bilateral strategic technology and military cooperation in the region. The deal, announced during Prime Minister Modi's State Visit in June 2023, is valued at USD 3 billion and includes 31 High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs, with the Navy receiving 15 SeaGuardian drones, and the Army and Indian Air Force each obtaining eight land versions of the SkyGuardian.

The Defense Acquisition Council, led by Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, approved the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones under the foreign military sale route in June 2023. The procurement has been a subject of discussion between India and the US, with Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin addressing the matter during talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi in November of the previous year. The Ministry of External Affairs emphasized respect for the US internal processes related to the procurement.

As of the latest available information on February 1, 2024, this development was reported by The Indian Express Pvt Ltd.

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