India plans to buy 30 armed UAVs from the US to bolster its maritime and land defences as tensions continue with neighbors China and Pakistan ,according to Indian & American officials.
India is emerging as a strategic defence partner for the US , particularly in dealing with Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is in the midst of a 10-year military armament program to modernize the Indian army with a budget of about $250 billion.
India will next month approve the purchase of 30 MQ-9B Predator aircraft manufactured by San Diego-based General Atomics at a cost of $3 billion.
The agreement will add significant armed capabilities to India, as its aircraft can now only be used for surveillance and reconnaissance.
“US-India relations nowadays are the result of decades of dedicated efforts by both countries,” said the chief executive of General Atomics.
“The fact that defence cooperation remains high on our list of priorities for bilateral relations is an indication of our objectives for mutual security.”
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to visit India this month, according to Indian media.
The MQ-9B drone can fly for about 48 hours giving the Indian Navy the ability to closely monitor Chinese warships in the southern Indian Ocean.
Another important use for India is border surveillance in Kashmir & Jammu where now it will be able by drone to intervene directly to destroy Pakistani positions.