Defence Ministry to take up Rs 21,000 crore deal for 30 Predator drones

India is now close to acquiring 30 Predator drones from the United States. A high-level meeting will be held on Monday in the Defence Ministry.

 In a big step towards strengthening military ties with the US, the Indian Defence Ministry is going to take up the case for the acquisition of 30 Predator drones for the three defence forces at a high-level meeting scheduled to be held on Monday.

If the acquisition goes through in the meeting, then the Defence Minister will forward it to the Defence Acquisition Council. It will then land in the Cabinet Committee on Security for final approval before the contract is finally signed.

The Predator drones will be equipped with advanced systems and weapons packages. These will allow for long-range surveillance and precision strikes. The Defence Ministry’s drone shopping list includes the SeaGuardian/SkyGuardian variants of the MQ-9B. According to reports, Indian Army, Navy and Air Force will each get 10 drones with customised specifications.

The Indian Navy is the lead service for this acquisition case, and it is jointly putting it up for clearance from the government.

Once approved, all the three services would be getting 10 drones each which would be used for surveillance as well striking targets when required. Predator drones have been inducted into the defence services on lease as they were taken by the Indian Navy under emergency procurement powers given to the services by the government.

The option of leasing weapon systems has been provisioned under the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 and the Defence Procurement Manual 2009. This helps India cut back on expenditure, since the responsibility of maintenance also lies with the vendor.

Over the past few years, Indian armed forces have been showing faith in American systems for surveillance requirements. The Indian Navy is already using as many as nine P-8I long-range surveillance planes and is expected to get another nine over the next few years.

India is also getting drones from Israel which are helping them to get coverage in high altitude areas and have been equipped with the latest surveillance gadgets.

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