Common security threats, maritime security and fast-tracking of the acquisition of $2-bn ‘Guardian’ drone deal for the Indian Navy – the first for a non-NATO country – are on top of the agenda for discussions when US defence secretary James Mattis comes to India next month. Confirming the visit of Mattis, highly-placed sources told FE that, “Since Chinese assets have started to dominate the Indian Ocean region, the Trump administration along with India is keen on fast-tracking the drone’s deal, which is manufactured by the US-based General Atomics, as well as addressing other major issues of mutual concern.” “The Predator deal operationalises the US-India major defence partner tag as passed by the US Congress last year,” the source said. Earlier this month, two-by-two ministerial dialogue was launched by US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their phone conversation, which will enhance quicker coordination and defence collaboration against common threats.
Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson of MEA, said “The dates for the first two-by-two ministerial dialogue have not been decided yet. This is a reflection of growing and deepening of our partnership. According to sources, India has been requesting Predator technology for several years, and it was only the combination of Trump and Modi that they were able to move the decision to this point. US aerospace leader Vivek Lall, chief executive of US and International Strategic Development at General Atomics, said, “We are pleased that both governments are in discussions to pursue the sale of the Sea Guardian platform and look forward to supporting the discussions”.
Lall has also been spearheading the aircraft carrier launch and recovery technology for the next Indian aircraft carrier, which will again provide much-needed dominance in the Indian Ocean region. Recently, this revolutionary new EMALS system was successfully deployed on the $14-bn US aircraft carrier Gerald Ford that was commissioned by President Trump. The high-level Joint Working Group between US and India deliberating on this carrier will meet in early November in Delhi, said sources.
As reported by FE, Indian Air Force early this year has also requested the US administration for General Atomics ‘Avenger’ 100 units, which is under consideration by the White House. It is estimated that deal could be to the tune of $8 billion, making it larger than the fighter competition that Lockheed and Boeing have been putting up for the past few years. As military aviation transforms globally to autonomous systems, US and India have a great opportunity to collaborate at the highest levels of technology and innovation.
Overall Indian requirement for UAVs is approximately 650 units. Commenting on the two-by-two ministerial dialogue, according to reports, Ashley Tellis, a top American expert on the Indo-US relationship said, “This is a very welcome development. Having a joint State-Defence conversation with India makes much more sense than having a State-Commerce dialogue”.