The Modi government cleared the MQ 9B drone proposal with US offering better terms and conditions.
The Narendra Modi government’s decision to approve a tri-service proposal to acquire 31 MQ 9-Predator B armed drones from the US on the eve of the Prime Minister’s state visit to the US on June 21 is the first major purchase after Indian Navy acquired 24 MH 60 R anti-submarine warfare helicopters from America in February 2020. The last major acquisition was done on the eve of then US President Donald Trump’s visit to India.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh approved the acceptance of necessity (AON) for purchasing the armed drones after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by PM gave a nod to General Electric manufacturing F-414 jet engines in India through 100 per cent manufacturing route in collaboration with HAL on June 14. India, however, did not accept Boeing’s proposal to make F-18 fighters in the country.
The two deals with the US not only indicate the deepening of bilateral defence cooperation but also the realization within the Indian military that the era of stand-off weapons delivery platforms has come to stay. The Predator-B drone is a top-of-the-line weapon platform that is used for high-value targeting of the enemy with its four Hell-Fire air-to-ground missiles and precision bombs. With the Indian DRDO not being able to come up with a viable armed drone, the Modi government had no options but to go for outright purchase of Predator-B drones through the foreign military sales route in order to ensure that the entire USD 3.5 billion deal has only government to government involvement with no scope for any lobbyist or middle-men. Under the FMS route, the US government will fix the price of the drones after negotiations with the manufacturer (General Atomics in this case) and then sell it to the government of India with a minimum processing fee. The deal will have to be cleared by the CCS after the final negotiations are complete. The drone deal also means that the US will extend the lease of two Sea Guardian drones currently deployed by the Indian Navy. The lease of two drones was expiring in January 2024.
The decision to manufacture the F-414 engine in India will seriously push both the DRDO, which is designing and developing the Tejas Mark II fighter, and the HAL, which will manufacture the engine, so that theIndian Air Force (IAF) has requisite number of fighter squadrons at the turn of this decade. There is also a possibility that GE with approval from the US government also decides to manufacture higher thrust engines in India.
With China making inroads into the Indian sub-continent particularly in Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka through the Belt-Road-Initiative leverage, India cannot afford to let go of its guard as Islamabad has decided to move towards the Middle-Kingdom as its special strategic partner after being a client state of US for the past decades. Given the rock-bottom economic conditions of these three Indian neighbours, China will use its money power to use these countries for expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean. It is for this very reason that the Modi government has decided to purchase 15 Predator B drones only for the Indian Navy so that its maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific increases manifolds. The long-endurance Predator B will also be used to target drug shipments coming out of the Af-Pak region as well as the golden crescent on the eastern borders of India. The hi-tech platform will not only track warships from adversaries in the Indian Ocean but also be part of a Quad surveillance network to ensure that sea lanes of communications remain open for all legal shipping.
The F-414 engine deal and the acquisition of Predator B drones from the US will not only add teeth to the Indian military but also act as a huge deterrence to adversaries who want India to be confined as a regional power and not aspire for a global leader.
source by : Hindustan Times
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