India Nearing Acquisition of 31 MQ-9B Drones from the United States
India is in the final stages of preparing a Letter of Request (LoR) to send to the United States government for the procurement of 31 MQ-9B drones from General Atomics (GA), according to top defense officials. The LoR will encompass the requirements of all three services and will be vetted and finalized by the defense ministry. It is expected to be sent within the next month.
The LoR will include details of the equipment needed and the terms of procurement. Based on this document, the US government and the defense ministry will proceed to finalize the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA). The LOA will outline the equipment specifics and procurement terms, following the guidelines of the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) program and the pricing and terms offered by the US government and GA to other nations.
Subsequent discussions will focus on project execution, including training personnel, providing training materials, and ensuring spares support. The Indian side intends to seek spare support for the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) through Indian partners.
The acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones, comprising 16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) RPAS, for the Indian Armed Forces through the FMS route was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in June. This decision was among the significant announcements in the defense sector during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit to the US.
The DAC, as the top decision-making body in the defense ministry, is responsible for approving major capital acquisitions and policies.
Another notable announcement during the visit was the agreement between General Electric (GE) Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the production of fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force, which received clearance from the US Congress.
Although the estimated cost of the MQ-9B drones is $3,072 million, the final price will be negotiated once the US government’s policy approval is obtained. This negotiation will involve comparing the acquisition cost with the best price offered by GA to other countries.
India aims to achieve 15 to 20 percent indigenous content in the MQ-9B UAVs, an increase from the current 8 to 9 percent offered by GA. This signifies India’s intention to manufacture certain components domestically, with numerous private and public sector companies expressing interest in contributing avionics and sensors, among other components.
The MQ-9B drones, assembled in India, will significantly enhance the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of India’s armed forces. They will also have the capability to execute precision strikes on strategic targets in mountainous and maritime regions during long-endurance missions.
As part of the agreement, GA will establish a Comprehensive Global MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) facility in India to support the nation’s long-term objectives of strengthening indigenous defense capabilities, as mentioned in a joint statement issued by India and the US.