Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit here, the US has cleared the sale of 22 predator Guardian drones, a force multiplier that will boost the Indian Navy’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The deal, estimated to be worth USD two to three billion, has been approved by the State Department, sources said. The decision has been communicated to the Indian government and the manufacturer by the State Department yesterday, according to the informed governmental sources. “This is the first very significant sign of the Trump administration being more result oriented in its relationship with India compared to Obama administration,” a source said.
While the deal has not been formally announced, the sale of 22 predator drones being manufactured by General Atomics is “a game changer” for the US-India relations as it operationalises the status of “major defence partner”. The designation of India being a “major defence partner” was decided by the previous Obama Administration, and formally approved by the Congress. The State Department and the White House did not immediately respond to the questions in this regard. An official announcement is expected soon.
Modi’s first meeting with Trump has been scheduled to take place at the White House on June 26. According to General Atomics, the Predator Guardian UAV, a variant of the Predator B, can be used for wide-area, long- endurance maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It can stay in the air for up to 27 hours and can fly at a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet. The Indian Navy made the request for this intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform last year. This maritime capability will be a force multiplier for the Indian Navy who has procured other advance technologies including Boeing P-8 aircraft. The Guardian has cutting edge technologies that do not do not exist in the current Indian Navy arsenal.