The Defence Ministry has strongly criticised the speculative media reports and viral messages circulating on social media regarding the proposed purchase of “overpriced” MQ-9B drones from the US. The Ministry expressed displeasure, stating that these reports are intended to disrupt the ongoing acquisition process.
The Ministry of Defence denounced these actions as uncalled for and driven by ulterior motives. They clarified that the purchase price and other terms and conditions have not been finalised yet and are still under negotiation. The Ministry urged everyone not to spread false news or misinformation, as it could significantly affect the morale of the Armed Forces and have a detrimental impact on the acquisition process.
“Price and other terms and conditions of the purchase are yet to be finalised and subject to negotiations. In this regard, all are requested not to spread fake news/misinformation, which can seriously impact the morale of the Armed Forces and adversely impact the acquisition process,” the Ministry said in a statement.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-profile visit to Washington, India and the US solidified their agreement on the drone deal. As part of the deal, the Indian Navy will receive 15 Sea Guardian drones, while the Indian Air Force and Army will each receive eight Sky Guardian drones.
“The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), on June 15, 2023, accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B (16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian) High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for Tri-Services from the USA through Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route. The AoN included the number of UAVs to be procured along with associated equipment,” MoD said in a statement.
The Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) has acknowledged the estimated cost of 3,072 million US dollars provided by the US Government. However, the final price will be determined through negotiations once the policy approval is obtained from the US government. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will compare the acquisition cost with the most competitive offer presented by General Atomics (GA) to other countries. The procurement process is currently underway and will be completed following the established procedure, as stated by the Ministry.
To facilitate the transaction through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, a Letter of Request (LOR) will be submitted to the US Government. This letter will include the tri-services’ requirements, equipment details, and procurement terms. The US government and the MoD will finalise a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) based on the LOR. This document will encompass negotiations and finalisation of equipment details and procurement terms, aligning with the FMS program and the pricing and terms offered by the US government and GA to other nations, the statement states.
According to the joint statement released by the White House, it was announced that the MQ-9B drones will be manufactured in India, contributing to the improvement of India’s armed forces’ intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. In line with this initiative, General Atomics, a company based in the United States, will establish a comprehensive global Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facility in India. This move aims to support India’s long-term objective of strengthening its own defence capabilities. General Atomics has partnered with Bharat Forge, a subsidiary of the Kalyani Group in India, for its drone business.