For the acquisition of 30 Predator armed drones from the US for the three services to counter the challenge posed by the Chinese Wing Loong II drone with precision strike capabilities, the Indian Navy is set to approach the defence ministry soon.
The drone that has been weaponized by the Chinese has been acquired by Pakistan and has plans to jointly produce the same with parent manufacturer Chengdu Aircraft Corporation together.
Designated as lead by both Army and Air Force in the acquisition of MQ-9 drones, the Indian Navy has asked the Defence Ministry for early convening of Defence Procurement Board meeting under the chairmanship of Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar to get the project cleared in principle.
The Navy will move the Defence Acquisition Council for acceptance of necessity (AON) of the procurement, which will be done through the US Foreign Military Sales route under government to the government scheme once the DPG clears the project. The Indian Navy, Army and Air Force will be getting 10 MQ-9 Predator drones each, fitted with guided bombs and Hell-Fire missiles.
To develop and sell drones at a defence planning committee meeting to discuss the acquisition of Predator while the Department of Defence Production raised the issue of HAL signing an MOU with Israel at DefExpo 2020, the armed forces have pointed out that the Israeli drones are there for hunter role, but the US drone is capable of both hunting and destroying the target with a proven role in Afghanistan and Iraq against terrorists and insurgency groups.
The Indian Army in the meanwhile, is set to acquire some six Heron high altitude long endurance drones from Israel on lease and parallelly upgrade with data-link and better radars the existing Heron drones.
Moreover, while the proposal for lease is pending with the Defence Ministry, the upgradation work has begun to meet the challenge posed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on-going deployment in East Ladakh as well as in the Xinjiang region across Karakoram Pass already.