It is very much likely that the United States will sell the Predator ‘Guardian’ drones India has its eyes set on.
India needs around 22 units of the world’s most famous drones for maritime surveillance especially over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
It is the same drone, the weaponised version of which was rejected by the US when the Indian Air Force had requested for it in 2015 because India was till then not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). India became an MTCR member in on June 6, 2016.
Reports say that Indian Navy had sent an official letter of request (LoR) in February to US Department of Defense (DoD) for the purchase of the drones during Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Barack Obama in the US in June. Discussions on the drone were also held between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter during the former’s US visit in August.
According to reports, the US government has started an inter-agency process on the Indian request as a first step to a possible military sale.
Washington is seeking to build stronger ties with India ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power.
Quoting sources, PTI reports that Washington believes the drone sale would help in “sealing India-US defence relationship” and bring in “a new level of comfort” between the two militaries.
The Predator drones have been one of the most dangerous flying machines of war.Sipa Press/Rex Features
What is also a big factor in the sale is that it would be seen as another feather in the cap of outgoing US President Barack Obama. He will be vacating office in January next year so the Pentagon is trying to seal the deal before that.
The ‘Guardian’ will massively boost Indian defence arsenal especially because of an increasing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region.
The Indian Navy currently uses Israeli Searcher II and Heron UAVs. IHS Janes reports that the IAF too might renew its request.