India drops 3 billion deal to buy Predator dronestext_fields
New Delhi: The Indian government has decided to forego buying 30 state-if-the-art Predator drones in order to focus more on indigenous assembly and manufacture, a Hindustan Times report has claimed.
Although the Narendra Modi government on February 9 banned the import of drones, acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles for defence and security purposes are exempt, but still require special and specific clearances. An unidentified top South Block official told HT that the deal had been called off for now. The Pentagon had been informed of the decision, HT said.
Spearheaded by the Indian Navy, India was planning to acquire 30 Predator armed drones for use across services (10 each for the navy, air force and army) at the cost of at least $3 billion from US-based General Atomics. The Indian Navy already has taken two surveillance Predators on lease from the US company and uses them for conducting reconnaissance of India's maritime and land borders with China and Pakistan.
The prohibitive costs of the Predator drones combined with concerns that they were vulnerable to surface to air missiles and radars in Pakistan occupied Kashmir according to the Indian Air Force were behind the reason to drop the drones, the report revealed.
The Indian Navy uses the Predator drones in lease, for maritime domain awareness from Gulf of Aden to Sunda Straits in Indonesia. It is now focusing on developing indigenous tech such as the Defence Research and Development Organization's Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone which will be revealed by March as well as High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) technology for surveillance and targeting capability.
India has already demonstrated its capacity and capability for the manufacture of swarm drones, as was showcased in the Beating Retreat ceremony this year. Besides DRDO, private Indian companies are also involved in the development of drones that are cheaper to operate compared to the Predator and pack similar lethality.