The Defence Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification, notifying Congress of the sale
The US State Department on Thursday approved the sale of 31 MQ-9B remotely piloted Sky Guardian aircraft and related equipment to India for an estimated total cost of $3.99 billion and notified Congress, paving the way for a formal contract to be signed soon.
“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of India of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $3.99 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification, notifying Congress of this possible sale today,” said the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in a press statement.
BharatShakti learnt that the Congressional Foreign Affairs Committees of the US Senate and the House of Representatives, have given their formal approval for the deal, after which the Congress was formally notified. A 30-day process now kicks in, leading to the US Defence Department issuing a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) to India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). The LOA serves as the gateway to commence formal discussions between General Atomics, the manufacturer of the MQ-9B Predator drone, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). These negotiations will encompass aspects such as pricing, configuration, and considerations like local assembly and technology transfer.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defence partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region,” read the statement issued by the US DSCA.
India had requested the US for 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian aircraft, 161 Embedded Global Positioning and Inertial Navigation, 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 16 M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDB) and 8 GBU-39B/B LSDB Guided Test Vehicles (GTVs) with live fuzes besides other items for the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones related elements of logistics and program support.
The proposed sale will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols over sea lanes of Indo-Pacific. India has demonstrated a commitment to modernising its military and will be able to absorb these articles and services into its armed forces, the statement states.
It also said that the principal contractor will be General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Poway, CA, and India’s requirement for offsets will be defined in negotiations with the contractor.
“Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to India,” it said.
The Indian Navy will get 15 MQ9B Sea Guardian drones in maritime and anti-submarine warfare kits, while the Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) will get eight each of its land versions called Sky Guardian. Since 2018, India has been keen to acquire the HALE drones capable of firing US missiles, These drones were originally offered for sale as unarmed UAVs for surveillance tasks. However, India pushed for both versions, and the US finally concurred. India also wanted General Atomics to set up a regional maintenance repair and overhaul facility in India for the drones, which will now be part of the offset contract.
The Indian Navy has been operating two Predator drones on lease from General Atomics for some time and is reportedly satisfied with their performance and capability, as these can fly as high as 40,000 feet and remain airborne for 40 hours. The drones have been very useful in monitoring pirate activity over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as well as in boosting India’s surveillance systems along the Chinese borders of LAC.
As the ripples of the Israel-Hamas conflict reverberate in the Red Sea, with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels intensifying their assaults on cargo ships using drones and long-range ballistic missiles, Somali pirates have surged in the western Indian Ocean. To deal with the ever-increasing threats of pirate attacks, drones, and missiles aimed at merchant vessels, the Indian Navy has deployed these HALE Sea Guardian MQ9B to locate and keep surveillance over the hijacked fishing vessels to carry out successful naval operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.