The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has reportedly given its approval for the procurement of armed Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from US defence manufacturer General Atomics.
The announcement of this deal is expected to be made during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming state visit to the US.
The final approval for this deal is pending from the Cabinet Committee on Security. A meeting of the DAC chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, was held on Thursday (15 June) morning. One of the most significant agendas in this meeting was the long pending deal for High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs, which has been approved, The Hindu reported citing sources.
The expected number of UAVs to be procured is around 26, with the Navy getting more UAVs than the Army and Air Force, valuing the deal between $2.5 billion to $3 billion. The deal includes the Maintenance, Overhaul and Repair (MRO) of the platforms as well.
Initially, the deal was for 30 UAVs (10 each for the three service) but it has been revised since, with the the Navy set to get the highest number of drones due to its pressing requirement.
With these HALE platforms, the Navy will significantly enhance its maritime surveillance capability over the Indian Ocean Region while simultaneously reducing the stress on the P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.
In December of last year, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar had reportedly said that the case was still in progress. He had shared that discussions were going on if numbers needed to be rationalised or kept the same. The Indian Navy had leased two MQ-9As in 2020, and the lease has since been extended.
General Atomics, the company that built them, said in November 2022 that the RPAs completed over 10,000 flight hours over two years. These vehicles have helped the Indian Navy cover over 14 million square miles of operating area since their maiden flight on 21 November 2020.
At Bengaluru's Aero India in February 2023, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and General Atomics made an announcement. The companies shared that HAL's engine division would support the turbo-propeller engines that power the MQ-9 for the Indian market. They are working together to create a comprehensive engine Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) program for future HALE RPA projects.
The Guardian, a maritime variant of the Predator MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), is equipped with a maximum endurance of 40 hours and can fly at a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet. It has a 360-degree maritime surveillance radar and an optional multimode maritime surface search radar. This vehicle proves to be a valuable tool in monitoring and patrolling the seas.
The MQ-9A 'Reaper' from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is praised for its exceptional operational flexibility, boasting an endurance of more than 27 hours, speeds reaching 240 knots true airspeed (KTAS), and a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet.
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