US Defence Secretary coming to India! Drones deal with General Atomics expected to be announced

By: |
March 10, 2021 9:16 PM

The first-ever leaders’ meeting of the Quad group of countries has been scheduled for Friday (March 12). This first high-level official meeting of the Quad leaders is in an effort to balance the growing military and economic power of China.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd AustinThis meeting of the Quad is important as the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to visit India later this month. Though no dates have been officially confirmed, according to sources, “it will be either around March 19-20 or towards the end of the month.” (File image)

The first-ever leaders’ meeting of the Quad group of countries has been scheduled for Friday, Mar 12, 2021. This first high-level official meeting of the Quad leaders is in an effort to balance the growing military and economic power of China. This will also be the first meeting, though virtually between the US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) & White House announce formally the Quad meeting

According to the MEA, “In the first Leaders Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework, being held virtually on March 12, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga, and Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison will participate.” Adding, “President of US Joseph R Biden, will also participate in this virtual meet.”

What brings these four leaders together is the common threat of China. And according to the MEA and White House the focus is going to be towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

And also they will be exchanging their views on present-day challenges including emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, resilient supply chains, and climate change.

This meeting of the Quad is important as the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to visit India later this month. Though no dates have been officially confirmed, according to sources, “it will be either around March 19-20 or towards the end of the month.”

Stage set for the finalization of the UAVs from the US

According to sources, “Efforts are on to close the deal for 30 UAVs, which will come to India through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) from General Atomics. This deal was expected to be closed last year in October 2020 during the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. ”

The first step is the approval from the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) which is expected to take place soon. The India Navy is expected to seek the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) from the DAC for the procurement of the HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs before the procurement process starts.

In response to a question related to the Indian Navy leasing 2 UAVs, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh had told Financial Express Online last year, “The acquisition process is going on. The Navy has leased the pre-production model. And what the service will get once the deal is done will be a very potent platform with underwater anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities.”

As an update, a source confirmed to Financial Express Online that the process for finalizing the deal soon is going on. “The Indian Navy is very satisfied with the performance of the Sea Guardians which were leased from the US-based company. These drones were leased to help the Navy for strengthening maritime security in view of the growing presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean Region.”

As has been reported by the Financial Express Online, the Indian Armed forces have been interested in buying armed unmanned systems from the US.

The USD 3 billion deal for the 10+10+10 Unmanned drones for the three services – the Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force.  The Indian Navy is already using two of these drones which it has leased from the US-based General Atomics. “The Indian Navy has been satisfied with the performance of these drones. And will be inking the deal for these drones soon.”

According to sources “The deal for the drones was expected to be inked during the last 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue between the two countries. However, it was inked due to issues related to the cost of the drones. Later this summer, the government is expected to put its stamp of approval for this big-ticket purchase from the US Company soon.”

What is India going to finally buy?

As reported earlier, India became the first non-treaty partner which was offered a Missile Technology Control Regime Category-1 Unmanned Aerial System – the Sea Guardian UAS which is manufactured by General Atomics.  The three services will be getting 30 MQ-9 Reaper or Predator B.

According to sources, the drones for each service are going to be with different configurations. Why? Because the payloads will vary for each user.

 Why does the Indian Navy need these drones?

These drones in sync with the P-8i long-range maritime patrol aircraft and the soon to be delivered MH-60R multi-role helicopters can help to track and hunt surface ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean region. Fully armed with sensors and weapons costing around $ 200 million, these drones will also help in strengthening surveillance of its coastal boundaries.

Also Read: https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/long-wait-over-indian-armed-forces-to-get-high-tech-us-armed-drones-equipped-with-missiles/1877652/

Background

In 2016, India made the first request for 22 Sea Guardians to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Soon this was followed by a request by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for 100 Predator C drones.

In 2017, the Indian Army had expressed interest in the Avenger UAV from the US-based General Atomics, when the US Secretary of Defence James Mattis met with the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi.”

Also Read: https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/indian-army-looks-to-buy-avenger-uav-from-the-us/1360059/

The Indian Navy is the main service for the drones deal. The MQ-9 is satellite-steered. It has the ability to float above the target at 45,000 feet and stay on task for 35 hours. According to experts, these can locate the enemy anywhere whether in eastern Ladakh, the Gulf of Aden or the Malacca Straits.

Also Read: https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/long-wait-over-indian-armed-forces-to-get-high-tech-us-armed-drones-equipped-with-missiles/1877652/

India & US Cooperation under Biden Administration

The visit of the Defence Secretary is being considered to be important as the Biden Administration’s focus is on Indo-Pacific and its deepening ties with India.  Also, the US side would be keen to understand more about the ongoing disengagement and de-escalation of the Indian and Chinese troops as well as Afghanistan, the recent understanding between India and Pakistan as well as strategic issues in Asia-Pacific.

Also Read: https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/upward-trajectory-of-us-india-strategic-partnership-says-renowned-defence-and-nuclear-expert-vivek-lall/2185625/

And it is also coming at a time when both India and China are working together to disengage in an effort to resolve the ongoing standoff along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

While in India, according to sources, the Defence Secretary will meet with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh. Also on the agenda is his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

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