US Offers Highly-Advanced Armed Drones To India To Boost Offensive Capabilities

The United States has reportedly approved the sale of armed drones to India and has offered advanced missile defence systems aimed at improving the nations military capabilities. 

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Washington is reportedly ready to offer its best defence technologies to India. “The US approved the sale of the armed drones to India. We have offered integrated air and missile defence technology to India,” a senior White House official told PTI.

India was the first non-treaty partner to be offered an MTCR Category-1 Unmanned Aerial System the Sea Guardian UAS manufactured by General Atomics. While the deal is yet to see the light of the day, mainly because of the delay in the decision-making process by India in view of the general elections, the US in recent months informed Delhi about its decision to sell armed version of the Guardian drones.

The ball is now in India’s court, a defence industry source told PTI. The deal, if it happens, could be in the range of over $2.5 billion, the industry source said.

Close on the heels of armed drones, which will have its implications in South Asia and Indo-Pacific region, the US has also offered its integrated defence missile capabilities to India. While officials are tight-lipped about it, the offer is said to be about two of its latest systems: Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), which is highly effective when used against long-range ballistic missiles and Patriot Missile defense system.

India, which has already signed an agreement with Russia to purchase S-400 missile defence system, is yet to respond to the American offer. The American offer, which came of its own, is currently being studied in New Delhi.

“We want India to have our best technology, and we want to see India improve its defence capabilities so that it can be a net provider of security in the broader Indo-Pacific region,” the senior White House official told PTI.

In a fact sheet on “US Security Cooperation with India” issued this week, the State Department joined the White House in trying to help strengthen its defence capabilities mainly due to the Indo-Pacific region.

“India plays a vital role in the US vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said the fact sheet issued by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs of the State Department. Towards this end, in 2016, the US designated India as a Major Defense Partner.

Commensurate with this designation, India last year was granted Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status, which allows India to receive licence-free access to a wide range of military and dual-use technologies that are regulated by the Department of Commerce, it said.

With a Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and other enabling agreements now in place, US-India defence trade cooperation continues to expand, it said. Some of the recent top defence sales to India include – MH-60R Seahawk helicopters (USD 2.6 billion), Apache helicopters (USD 2.3 billion), P-8I maritime patrol aircraft (USD 3 billion), and M777 howitzers (USD 737 million).