MQ-9B Drones Acquisition: Letter of Request Being Finalised

Defence Industry

New Delhi: Taking in the three services’ requirements, India is in the final stages of drafting the Letter of Request (LoR) for the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones from General Atomics (GA). The defence ministry will vet and finalise them. The LoR would also include details of equipment and terms of the procurement and is expected to be sent to the United States government within a month end, according to a media report.

According to the report, the US government and the defence ministry will finalise the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) based on the LoR, where details of equipment and terms of the procurement would be negotiated and finalised in accordance with the FMS programme and the price and terms offered by the US government and GA to other countries. Subsequent discussions will be held over execution of the project, including training people and providing training material as well as spares support for the RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) through Indian partners.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in June cleared the acquisition of the MQ-9Bs — 16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) RPAS — for the Indian Armed Forces from the United States through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route. This was among the key announcements made in the defence sector during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit to the US in June. The DAC is the top decision-making body in the defence ministry that clears major capital acquisitions and policies.

The defence ministry had earlier clarified that the price will be negotiated once policy approval of the US government is received, wherein it will compare the acquisition cost with the best price offered by GA to other countries. The estimated cost of the drones is US $ 3,072 million and it may further go down after negotiation. In June, a top government official had said India is hopeful of having 15 to 20 per cent of indigenous content in the MQ-9B UAVs, taking it up from the 8 to 9 per cent offered by GA presently. This means India seeks to manufacture certain components in the country and several private and public sector companies have shown interest in pitching in with avionics and sensors among other components.

The joint statement issued by India and US had said that General Atomics will also establish a Comprehensive Global MRO facility in India to support India’s long-term goals to boost indigenous defence capabilities. The MQ-9Bs, to be assembled in India, will enhance the ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities of India’s armed forces. They can also carry out precision strikes on strategic targets in mountains and the maritime domain during long-endurance missions.