Efforts are in full swing to expedite the Rs 32,000 crore Predator-B deal for the acquisition of 31 armed drones, with the Navy leading the initiative. Letters of request have been dispatched to both the US Department of Defense and General Atomics, the manufacturers. Anticipations are high that the deal, following commercial negotiations, will be finalized by February next year, even though it may not conclude by the year-end. Upon signing, deliveries are scheduled to commence in 2026.
Out of the 31 drones, the Navy is set to receive 15, while the Army and the Air Force will each be allocated 8 units. The Navy currently operates 2 drones on lease, but the naval variant of the Predator-B differs slightly from the ones designated for the Army and Air Force.
The Navy’s Sea Guardian Predators are expected to be stationed in Tamil Nadu. Meanwhile, eight Predators will be stationed in Saraswa, with four each allocated to the Army and Air Force. Saraswa is located in Uttar Pradesh, in close proximity to Haryana. Additionally, a similar complement will be based in Gorakhpur, also situated in Uttar Pradesh.
Moreover, the acquisition of weapons presents another dimension to the procurement process. The Ministry of Defense will need to execute a separate contract for the procurement of bombs and missiles.