State-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will provide maintenance support services for turbo-propellor engines of American MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft system for their operations in India, the company said on Wednesday (15 February).
The MQ-9B is considered as one of the most sophisticated armed drones globally.
HAL and US defence major General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI), the manufacturer of the MQ-9Bs, announced the collaboration on the MRO (maintenance repair and overhaul) services for the drones on the sidelines of Aero India-2023 in Bengaluru.
The announcement of the project comes amid India's ongoing talks with the US to procure 30 MQ-9B armed drones at a cost of over $3 billion primarily to crank up its surveillance apparatus along the frontier with China as well as in the Indian Ocean region.
In 2020, the Indian Navy had taken on lease two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from General Atomics for a period of one year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean. The lease period has been extended subsequently.
In a statement on Wednesday (15 February), HAL said that "Expression of Interest" was exchanged between it and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated (GA-ASI) for "providing MRO support for turbo-propeller engines which power the state-of-art MQ-98 Guardian High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)".
"GA-ASI and HAL eagerly look forward to formulate a comprehensive engine MRO program for upcoming HALE RPAS projects. This joint collaboration echoes India's clarion call for 'Atmanirbharta' or 'Self-Reliance', while underscoring the deep industrial connection between US and Indian Aerospace Companies," the statement said.
“GA-ASI is proud to collaborate with HAL on this prestigious project,” said Vivek Lall, Chief Executive, General Atomics Global Corporation.
“HAL is the foremost Indian public sector Aerospace and Defence agency, and its vast experience in the domain of aero-engine technology makes it our natural partner in India," he added.
HAL chairman and managing director C B Ananthakrishnan said that the state-run firm has been manufacturing and providing MRO support for TPE 331-5 engines for the last 40 years.
We are also establishing facilities for manufacturing TPE 331-12B engines for HTT-40 project.
"The engine used on the MQ-9B RPAS belongs to the same family of engines with upgraded configuration to adapt to the RPAS technology. I am glad that HAL Engine Division, Bangalore would be providing MRO support to the engine for MQ-9B RPAS, one of the most sophisticated equipment in the world,” said Ananthakrishnan.
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