In a crucial development, India has sent a Letter of Request (LOR) to General Atomics, a US-based aerospace and defense company, as part of the process to acquire 31 MQ-9B Predator drones. This move comes following the Defence Acquisition Council’s approval earlier this year, signaling India’s intent to enhance its defense capabilities through the acquisition of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Speaking at a special briefing after the 2+2 India-US Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane confirmed the submission of the LOR and highlighted that India is now awaiting a response from General Atomics. The deal, valued at an indicative cost of USD 3,072 million, aims to strengthen India’s defense preparedness.

The Indian Navy is at the forefront of this acquisition, leading the procurement of MQ-9B Predator drones. Both India and the US are eager to finalize the deal before the conclusion of the fiscal year 2023-24, emphasizing the urgency and strategic significance of this collaboration.

The cost projection for each MQ-9B drone for India is estimated at USD 99 million, presenting a substantial reduction compared to previous acquisitions. Notably, the UAE, which acquired similar drones earlier, incurred a cost of USD 161 million per unit. The advantageous pricing for India is attributed to the scale of the deal and the potential for General Atomics to recoup initial investments from prior transactions.

However, it’s essential to consider potential complexities associated with the integration of indigenous radars and missiles. While the initial cost projection is favorable, the incorporation of additional features may prompt a reassessment of costs. This underscores the intricate nature of acquiring cutting-edge defense technologies and the need for meticulous planning to ensure the effectiveness of the acquired assets.