India Set to Approve Purchase of Armed Drones from General Atomics

India Set to Approve Purchase of Armed Drones from General Atomics

India is close to approving a deal to purchase high-altitude armed drones from the United States as it looks to counter China on the Himalayan border that both countries share, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, March 1. The decision-making process around the acquisition is gathering momentum in New Delhi.

The purchase of the advanced MQ-9B drones—equipped with antisubmarine warfare capabilities as well as land-attack and antiship missiles—will boost the Indian Navy’s surveillance efforts in the Indian Ocean, which it patrols. Additionally, the drones will reduce operating costs for the navy, which currently uses long-range patrol aircraft such as Boeing Co.’s P-8I.

Manufactured by San Diego-based General Atomics, these Predator drones will mark the first major American foreign military sales to India since 2020 when New Delhi ordered two dozen Sikorsky MH-60R maritime helicopters made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for an estimated $2.6 billion.

Predator drones can operate at an altitude of over 40,000 feet and drop sensors or sonobuoys to track the presence of enemy submarines. The drones proposed for sale to India are expected to include advanced radars, sensors and other electronic equipment for surveillance, reconnaissance and precision killing.

State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. will provide maintenance, repair, and overhaul services for the drones’ engines. General Atomics and Indian conglomerate Bharat Forge Ltd. will jointly manufacture some of its landing-gear components and other small parts.

If India signs off on the purchase, the deal would need U.S. approval and signing an agreement between the governments could take months. Such an agreement would make India the first country that isn’t a U.S. treaty ally to buy the armed version of the drones.


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