Trump Visit: India To Acquire Armed Drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles From The US To Boost Its Surveillance Capability

Trump Visit: India To Acquire Armed Drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles From The US To Boost Its Surveillance CapabilityRepresentative image of a military drone. (Picture: https://www.af.mil/)

During President Donald Trump's visit to India, defence deals worth around $3 billion were announced which also included the proposal to procure armed drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), reports The Hindu.

India plans to buy 10 High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones for each Armed Service and the qualitative requirements (QR) are currently being finalised.

India has already received the pricing and availability (P&A) data from the US and joint QRs are being formulated.

The payload for drones for the three service will be different for each service.

In 40 days, the Indian Army and Air Force will likely be ready with their QR during the next meeting of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) which consist of all the three service chiefs and the newly created post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who is also the permanent Chairman of CoSC.

With regards to the Indian Navy, the QRs are ready and awaiting approval along with the proposal to purchase MK-45 127mm naval guns and six more P-8I long patrol maritime patrol aircraft.

India and the US have already had extensive discussions on procuring armed drones.

The MQ-9 Reaper or Predator-B built by General Atomics are the two drones India is interested in to enhance its surveillance capability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

That is why the Navy wants High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones which will give the Navy more operational room since these HALE can cover a vast area.

The HALE drones have the capability to conduct surveillance and provide real-time intelligence and the P-8Is which the Indian navy already use will be for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).

On principle, the US has accepted the approval of the sale of such drones and in a few months, the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) could be issued.

In 2018, India signed the Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and that will allow the Seaguardian which is in sync with its P-8Is encrypted systems, making it more efficient from an operational perspective.

The cost of each drone could be as high as 200 million dollars which is more than a fighter aircraft. But the drones give strategic advantage and for example, Predator-B has a maximum flight endurance of 35 hours, can fly at an altitude of over 40,000 feet and can carry an external payload of 2.1 tonnes across nine hard points.