Source : The Indian Express
India finalising Letter of Request for acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones
India is in the final stages of drafting the Letter of Request (LoR) to send to the United States government for the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones from General Atomics (GA), top defence officials told The Indian Express.
As per the officials, the three services’ requirements have already been taken in and the defence ministry will vet and finalise them.
The LoR, which would also include details of equipment and terms of the procurement, is expected to be sent across within a month, they said.
Based on the LoR, the US government and the defence ministry will finalise the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) where details of equipment and terms of the procurement would be negotiated and finalised in accordance with the FMS programme and the price and terms offered by the US government and GA to other countries.
An official said subsequent discussions will be held over execution of the project, including training people and providing training material as well as spares support. “We will look for spare support for the RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) through Indian partners,” the official said.
The acquisition of the MQ-9Bs — 16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) RPAS — for the Indian Armed Forces from the United States through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in June and was among the key announcements made in the defence sector during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit to the US in June.
The other major announcement was the pact between General Electric (GE) Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on production of fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force, which was cleared by the US Congress last week.
While the estimated cost of the drones is 3,072 million US dollars, the defence ministry had earlier clarified that the price will be negotiated once policy approval of the US government is received, wherein it will compare the acquisition cost with the best price offered by GA to other countries.
In June, a top government official had said India is hopeful of having 15 to 20 per cent of indigenous content in the MQ-9B UAVs, taking it up from the 8 to 9 per cent offered by GA presently.
This means India seeks to manufacture certain components in the country and several private and public sector companies have shown interest in pitching in with avionics and sensors among other components.
The MQ-9Bs, to be assembled in India, will enhance the ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities of India’s armed forces. They can also carry out precision strikes on strategic targets in mountains and the maritime domain during long-endurance missions.