The tail section of the turboprop MQ-9 Predator B drone is seen on the tarmac. (Representative image: Reuters)
India has sought “more clarity” from the United States about the armed MQ-9B Predator drones before finalising the deal, media reports have said.
India plans to buy 30 armed drones, which are designed for long-range precision strikes against hostile targets on land and sea, from the US.
New Delhi has now sought to know more about the price fixation, maintenance and transfer of technology in the proposed $3 billion (around Rs 22,000 crore) deal to acquire these drones, The Times of India cited sources as saying.
According to the report, the procurement project would be moved for “acceptance of necessity (AoN)” by defence minister Rajnath Singh-led Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) once it gets the information from the US government.
The Indian government finalised the plan to acquire these 30 drones, also known as SeaGuardian or SkyGuardian remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to strengthen its long-range unmanned lethal capabilities. The army, navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) are to get 10 drones each, with different payloads to hunt and destroy targets over land and sea, the report saidt.
However, the high cost has delayed the signing of the final contract, the report said. It will be a government-to-government deal through the US foreign military sales (FMS).
“Due to the high procurement cost for the 30 armed drones, the defence ministry wants better insight into the deal under the FMS, which is slightly opaque,” the report quoting a source as saying.
That is why the defence ministry had asked for some more details on the exact costing, the repair and maintenance facilities that would be set up in India and the technology transfer it would entail, the source told the publication.
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Once the project gets the AoN from the DAC, India will issue an actionable LoR (letter of request) to the US government, the report said. The final contract would be signed after the US responds with a letter of offer and acceptance and notifies US Congress, the report added.