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India and the United States are on the cusp of finalizing a deal for the procurement of 31 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), with an anticipated conclusion by early February 2024. Price negotiations have largely been concluded, and both nations are now awaiting the formal issuance of the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) from the U.S. administration to proceed with the deal.

This significant procurement was approved by the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) in June, covering the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B UAVs from General Atomics (GA). The order includes 15 Sea Guardians designated for the Indian Navy, and eight Sky Guardians each for the Indian Army and Air Force. The estimated cost of this procurement stands at $3,072 million, and it is facilitated through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.

India’s approach to the deal includes a focus on enhancing technology transfer. The Indian government is actively negotiating to increase the technology transfer element from the existing 8-9% to a more substantial 15% to 20%. This approach aligns with India’s strategic goals of promoting indigenous manufacturing and technological self-reliance. Notably, these MQ-9B UAVs will be assembled in India, marking a significant step in building domestic capabilities.

The MQ-9B UAV is a versatile platform designed to fulfil various roles. It is equipped with the capability to engage targets using its onboard weapons, making it a valuable asset for strike operations. Additionally, it serves in roles such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), electronic warfare, defensive counter-air, and airborne early warning.

This impending deal not only bolsters India’s defence capabilities but also highlights the growing partnership between India and the United States in the field of defence and technology cooperation. As the negotiations advance, the two nations are poised to strengthen their collaborative efforts in the defence sector.

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