The Indian Air Force (IAF), the Army, and the Navy are set to acquire a total of 30 armed versions of the US-made MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones in a deal estimated to be worth $3 billion, ThePrint reports. Last year, India had refused the offer.
The decision to procure the advanced drones comes ahead of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to India later this month.
According to the report, Austin’s visit could pave the way for the forthcoming meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the US, India, Japan, and Australia.
The news of the procurement of the modern drones comes after the Indian Navy had leased two MQ-9B Sea Guardian UAVs (a variant of Predator B) from the US last year.
The Navy had taken the drones for a period of a year to boost its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities amid the border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
It is believed under the deal to procure 30 MQ-9 Reaper drones, the Indian Air Force, Army and Navy will all acquire 10 drones each.
Earlier, the deal for the 30 drones was on the cards under the Trump administration, however, India refused to succumb to the US’ constant push of concluding the deal.
Developed by American defense firm General Atomics, the MQ-9 Sea Guardian is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations.
The drones are reported to have an endurance of 48 hours and a range of over 6,000 nautical miles.
As reported by The Eurasian Times, India had previously rejected the deal citing high costs and vulnerability in well-defended airspace.