In preparation for the anticipated meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden on September 8, India has taken a significant step towards bolstering its defense capabilities. The Indian government has formally initiated the process of acquiring 31 MQ-9B Guardian armed drones from the United States, marking a notable development in India’s quest for enhanced military capabilities.
According to reliable sources, India has submitted a formal letter of request to the US government, expressing its intent to acquire 31 medium altitude long-endurance (MALE) drones manufactured by General Atomics. These MQ-9B Guardian drones are renowned for their versatility and performance in surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Upon receipt of the formal request, the US government, in collaboration with India’s Defense Ministry, will embark on negotiations to finalize the ‘Letter of Offer and Acceptance’ (LOA). This crucial document will comprehensively outline the specifics of the equipment, the terms of procurement, and the pricing arrangements offered by the US government. Additionally, it will encompass provisions for training, training materials, and the supply of essential spare parts, further strengthening India’s operational capabilities.
This acquisition follows another significant defense development just three months ago, on June 15, when the Defense Acquisition Council, chaired by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, granted approval for the procurement of 16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian MALE drones. The estimated cost of these acquisitions, as reported by the Defense Ministry, stands at approximately $3.072 billion, with the final pricing subject to approval by the US government.
Furthermore, the Indian Defense Ministry has set ambitious goals to conclude negotiations for this deal by the end of the current year or, at the latest, by the conclusion of the fiscal year. This swift action demonstrates India’s commitment to strengthening its defense capabilities and maintaining regional security.
This development also comes on the heels of a significant setback in India’s indigenous MALE drone development program. On August 20, the Defense Research and Development Organisation experienced a setback when its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) named ‘Tapas’ crashed during user trials. The Tapas UAV, boasting an impressive flight endurance of over 18 hours at altitudes exceeding 28,000 feet, was undergoing testing by the Indian Armed Forces.
The Tapas UAV is a versatile platform equipped to carry various electronic intelligence, communication intelligence, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance payloads. Its capabilities enable it to monitor enemy movements effectively over extended periods.
In a related development, the Indian Armed Forces have expressed their intent to initially acquire 76 production variants of Tapas. Specifically, the Indian Army is set to operate 60 units, the Indian Air Force will employ 12 units, and the Indian Navy will utilize four units. This demonstrates India’s commitment to both indigenous innovation and international collaboration to enhance its defense capabilities, especially in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles.