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Guardian UAV deal with U.S. still a work in progress

An American approval for the sale of 22 Guardian maritime surveillance has come India’s way, but defence sources say the actual deal is a long way off as New Delhi is evaluating the options available.

“They gave a willingness. We have to look at the options as we have specific requirements. There are a few options available. This specific issue is on the table now. We got the offer and we will look into it,” a senior defence official told The Hindu.

Another official said government-to-government discussions were under way but declined to put any timeline as to when it could be concluded. There was much speculation that the deal, likely between $2-2.5 billion, would be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last month. However, while there was no such announcement, the U.S.-India joint statement issued at the end of the visit said Washington had “offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems” which would enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests.

“Given the Sea Guardian’s capabilities, such a U.S. response to the Indian Navy’s request demonstrates a major change in U.S. policy as this type of aircraft capability is only exported to a very select few of America’s closest defence partners. This represents tangible implementation of U.S. Congress’ designation of India as a Major Defence Partner,” Dr. Vivek Lall, Chief Executive, U.S. and International Strategic Development, General Atomics said.


Boosting capabilities

The Navy currently operates Israeli Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs and is keen on acquiring High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) to augment its maritime surveillance capabilities. The other option is to go for Israeli HALE drones, which India is quite familiar with. Last year, the Navy asked General Atomics for the details of the Guardian, following which company officials made presentations on its capabilities.


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