In an effort to contain Chinese incursions, India is keen to spend $2 billion to acquire 100 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). The discussions are at an advanced stage between the US and India, where the latter wants to procure the modern Predator C made by General Atomics. In addition, India also wants to lay its hands on Avenger drones (an UCAV), besides seeking Predator XP category, which is a surveillance version for internal security and terrorist threats. However, White House is still waiting for India’s membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Officials in the Indian government are hopeful that the country would soon get an MTCR membership, paving way for the US administration to take defence trade with India — which would include UCAVs like Predator XP — to the next level. Vivek Lall, chief executive of the US and International Strategic Development of General Atomics, the company which manufactures Predator series of remotely piloted aircraft, talks to Huma Siddiqui on the ongoing talks. Excerpts:
India is interested in the Predator UAV of General Atomics. Have you heard anything on India’s interest in this drone?
Yes,General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc is aware of India’s interest in Predator-series Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
What could come as a stumbling block in India obtaining the Predator and what’s this process of sale to India contingent upon?
Due to US export laws, the US government has to approve the export of a Predator-series RPA to the Indian government. GA-ASI remains very encouraged by the recent India-US bilateral engagements at the highest levels and we are hopeful that we can play an important supporting role in these discussions.
What are the roles that Predator can perform in the Indian context? Have you worked out scenarios under which it can be deployed along India’s borders?
Predator-series RPA could provide a world-class intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability for India which would include both high-definition radar and Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) coverage along India’s borders. Additionally, the RPA can perform humanitarian aid/disaster relief surveillance .
What capabilities of Predator can become add-ons to the Searcher-II, Heron and Herop that Indian armed forces already have ?
Predator-series RPA provide a highly reliable, cost-effective ISR capability that is fully interoperable with US forces and US military platforms in the Indian military’s aircraft inventory. The aircraft can perform wide-area surveillance along India’s extensive terrestrial and marine borders. Extremely safe and reliable, Predator-series RPA have been updated with state-of-the-art technologies, including an automatic takeoff and landing capability, redundant flight control surfaces, enhanced avionics, and triple-redundant flight control computers. GA-ASI also plans to developing a Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability for its RPA .
Would you be ready for a technology transfer, co-production in India in case that’s what New Delhi is looking for? Is there a possibility that Predator could be part of the second tranche of the DTTI projects that the US works on with India?
GA-ASI is very interested in opportunities to work with new international industrial partners. We focus on identifying those opportunities that leverage the strengths and growth capabilities of new partners to enhance the already impressive capabilities delivered by Predator-series RPA.