The US government has commenced its internal process to release armed Avenger (formerly Predator C) drones to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The acquisition of these machines is strategically important for New Delhi given the region’s geopolitics. Over the last decade, Israeli drones have been procured in significant quantities by all three armed forces.
Sources have told FE: “The much-awaited two-by-two dialogue involving the foreign and defence ministers of both countries (India and US) will consider this topic of armed Avenger drones when they meet in the first quarter of 2018. The meeting, originally planned for January, has apparently been pushed to April.”
As reported by FE earlier, during the US secretary of defence James Mattis’s visit earlier this year, the Indian Army had expressed interest in buying the Avenger UAV from the US-based General Atomics. It was also decided that the request would be added along with that of the IAF. In October, during the annual press meet, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa confirmed that they would be keen to consider if US releases that technology.
Renowned global aerospace expert Dr Vivek Lall who was in charge at Boeing Company a decade ago to bring the then latest technology of P8I for the Indian Navy has been a key figure to continue to cement defence relations with these drone platforms sales which are not offered to any other non NATO countries.
Sources also told FE ‘the US administration and India have larger joint Make in India defence pursuits on the anvil beyond the drone sales as a next step.”
When US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had met in New Delhi in October, it was decided that the new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue as announced by the US President Donald Trump will take place early next year.
The IAF requires a huge number of drones especially for contested airspace in the years to come. The projection of drone requirements is in the hundreds by all three services and is only limited by prioritisation of defence budget allocations.
The US Air Force and Indian Navy have apparently made significant progress in government to government discussions on the sale of 22 Guardian unmanned aircraft system (UAS) high altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft that was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump in June.
It is expected that this deal will be inked in 2018. And the numbers are expected to go up as India is pursuing its Blue Economy and the Navy will be protecting the trade lanes as well as conducting anti piracy operations.
Acknowledging India’s positive contributions to regional security and stability, including in matters beyond the maritime space, both India and US are having further consultations in maritime domain awareness (MDA) area.