Donald Trump’s India visit: Stage set for drones and helicopters from the US

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Updated: February 11, 2020 9:03:44 PM

Both India and the US are keen on closing the deal soon.

donald trump, us president donald trumpThe Trump administration during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in 2017 had announced the discussion of Category 1 UAV.

Ahead of the US President Donald Trump’s visit, a positive announcement related to the procurement of 30 drones from the US-based General Atomics is expected. Highly placed sources have confirmed to FE Online that “The deal for the General Atomics Predator MQ9’s for the three services — Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force – is likely to be approved by DAC or the Defence Acquisition Council just before the visit’s start.” As has been reported by the Financial Express Online earlier, due to the interest from the three services, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) went ahead with discussions for 10+10+10 unmanned drones.

Both India and the US are keen on closing the deal soon. In fact the Trump administration during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in 2017 had announced the discussion of Category 1 UAV.

The man behind the Predator Drones Talks

US aerospace leader Dr Vivek Lall was the Chief Executive for Strategic Development with General Atomics and it was due to his efforts that the US administration had approved the sale of these drones to India. According to sources he was spearheading discussions related to the drones with the US administration.

The Indian Army’s request for the Avenger drones from General Atomics came up during the talks between the former defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and former US Secretary of Defence James Mattis in June 2017.

More about the Avenger

Formerly known as the Predator C, it is an unmanned aerial vehicle and built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

This is service with the US forces.

It is powered by a turbofan engine, and has been designed with stealth features; internal weapons storage; and has an S-shaped exhaust which is required for reducing infrared signatures.

Sea Guardian for the Indian Navy

The US has confirmed category one UAV technology — Sea Guardian drones which India has requested for the Indian Navy. The Sea Guardian is the naval version of the Predator B armed drone.

Indian Air Force Request for Predator C too has been accepted by the US.

When did this all start?

In 2016, the Indian Navy was the first to send a letter of request for 22 Sea Guardians to General Atomics where Dr Vivek Lall, was the Chief Executive for Strategic Development.

The Sea Guardian Drone is not sold to every country. When India buys them it will be joining the select group of countries which have these drones in service.

Why India?

India has been declared as a Major Defense Partner (MDP) of the US which has expressed its commitment to not only expand the scope of the status but also to further deepen defence ties.

India is among the select group of countries which are entitled to license-free exports, re-exports, and transfers under License Exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA-1).

The two countries are exploring new avenues for expanding two-way trade of military platforms and are also creating a strong ecosystem for the defence and aerospace sector.

Another major announcement which is expected to be made is about 24 Lockheed Martin MH60R anti-submarine warfare helicopters for Indian Navy. The discussions for these helicopters too were led by Dr Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin.

As has been reported by the Financial Express Online, in 2019, the Trump administration had approved the sale of $2.6 billion twenty-four MH-60R Seahawk Multi-Mission helicopters. These helicopters are critical for the Indian Navy’s anti-submarine warfare operations in the Indian Ocean to counter the growing presence of China.

These MH-60R fourth generation helicopters are armed with torpedoes and missiles and can be used for anti-submarine warfare, which will help in ensuring stability in the Indo-Pacific Region. In this deal, there is a 30 per cent offset contract as well.

These helicopters, as reported earlier, will be coming through the Foreign Military Sales from the US-based Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin.

Financial Express Online was the first to report that the deal will be finalised soon and from the time of the contract being signed the helicopters will be inducted in the Indian Navy in the next five years. And will be replacing the Sea King Helicopters which are British made.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has already given its approval for the US-based Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky MH-60Rs ‘Romeos’ and the package includes spares, supports, training of the personnel, sensors and anti-surface warfare weapons, air-to-ground weapons, as well as spares, training, and support.

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