India could buy 18 armed MQ-9 Predators drones from the United States and the deal could be signed as early as June 2023, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the United States, Hindustan Times.
All services, the Navy, the Air Force and the Army are expected to get six drones each.
The MQ-9A is a turboprop-powered, multi-mission RPA developed and first flown by General Atomics in 2001. It offers unmatched operational flexibility with a 27-hour endurance, speeds of 240 Knots True Airspeed (KTAS), and the ability to operate at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.
It has a payload capacity of 3,850 pounds, including 3,000 pounds of external stores.
The Indian Navy already operates two MQ-9 drones on lease on a Company-Owned, Company-Operated (COCO) model. The Indian Navy received these drones in November 2020, at the peak of the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Some reports say that the Navy is highly with the capabilities of the drone, so much so that the two MQ-9s completed 10,000 hours of flying in just two years.
Even the Indian Army the drone's real-time imagery capabilities along the LAC when the Navy’s drones were deployed along the LAC to keep an eye on Chinese deployment.
The Hindustan Times report also states that the number of drones to be bought has been reduced to 18 from the earlier projected requirement of 30, after operational analysis, mission requirements and force projection by the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
The deal is expected to be signed by June or July when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the United States at the of US President Joe Biden.
The deal could also include a significant Make-In-India component in line with the government’s strategy of Aatma Nirbharta.
Just early last month General Atomics signed a with Bharat Forge to manufacture main landing gear components, sub-assemblies and assemblies of MQ-9.
This partnership will help India to develop a drone manufacturing ecosystem in the country.
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