India considers expanding its arsenal with US drones, fighting helicopters

(MENAFN) The Indian military is exploring the possibility of acquiring additional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and combat helicopters from the United States, alongside the existing deal for 31 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs, which is currently underway. To facilitate this decision-making process, the Chief of Defense Staff has commissioned two comprehensive studies focusing on UAVs and armored helicopters used by all three branches of the Indian armed forces – the Army, Air Forces, and Navy.

According to sources familiar with the matter, these studies are designed to streamline the procurement process, ensuring an optimal allocation of resources and avoiding redundancy.

One of the studies has proposed the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones, a deal that was officially announced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington. Additionally, the study suggested obtaining 155 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs. While the MQ-9B procurement process is already in motion, the division of the 155 MALE UAVs is still pending final decision.

Moreover, the Indian military is now in the process of upgrading its existing fleet of Israeli Heron MALE drones, a project that has been pending for several years. This comprehensive upgrade, estimated to cost 210 billion Indian rupees (approximately USD2.5 billion USD), will involve equipping the drones with weaponry capabilities and integrating satellite communication for enhanced operational effectiveness.

In June, India's defense ministry granted approval for the procurement of 31 MQ-9Bs from the United States, an acquisition valued at an estimated USD3 billion. The deal is being facilitated through the United States Foreign Military Sales route. Subsequently, last month, the defense ministry issued a Letter of Request to the United States government, serving as the foundation for negotiations to finalize the details of the agreement, including its cost. This prospective expansion of India's UAV capabilities and combat helicopter fleet represents a significant strategic development in the country's defense infrastructure.



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