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US issues letter of acceptance to India for acquisition of predator drones

Written by  Annesha Barua -- March 15th 2024 08:34 AM
US issues letter of acceptance to India for acquisition of predator drones

US issues letter of acceptance to India for acquisition of predator drones

PTC News Desk: The defense cooperation between India and the United States has taken another significant step forward with the Biden administration sending the final Letter of Acceptance (LOA) to India's Defence Ministry for the acquisition of 31 MQ9B Predator drones from General Atomics through the government-to-government route. This move solidifies the burgeoning strategic partnership between the two nations. The classified LOA, detailing the nearly $4 billion acquisition, was dispatched to India earlier this week.

Officials based in Washington and Delhi confirmed that the negotiated price for the 31 armed drones was included in the final LOA, which was transmitted to the Defence Ministry on March 11. Contrary to some reports suggesting a delay due to alleged incidents involving Khalistani radical G S Pannun, the finalisation of the deal indicates continuity and commitment to strengthening bilateral defense ties. The US State Department initially notified India of the drone deal on February 1, with the draft LOA remaining open for a mandatory 30-day period to allow for any potential objections from US lawmakers. With no vetoes from lawmakers during this period, the final LOA was subsequently sent to India.


Upon receiving the LOA, the Indian Navy, designated as the lead player in the acquisition, will evaluate the terms before forwarding it to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval, provided the price is deemed acceptable. Under the agreement, the Indian Navy is set to receive 16 MQ9B drones, while the Indian Army and Indian Air Force will each acquire eight. The comprehensive package includes 171 Hellfire AGM-114 R missiles, laser-guided bombs, missile launchers, ground stations, anti-submarine sonobuoys, and advanced encryption and surveillance capabilities.

This Letter of Acceptance is a reciprocal response to India's earlier expression of interest in procuring 31 drones through the US government. Utilising the government-to-government route, negotiations on pricing are conducted between the supplying government and the manufacturer.

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The decision to acquire the 31 Predator drones comes at a crucial juncture, particularly as the lease of two Sky Guardian drones (unarmed Predators) operated by the Indian Navy was nearing expiration in January. Initially extended until March, a subsequent contract for a further four-year extension was recently inked, costing approximately $220-230 million.

Analysts view the India-US MQ9B deal as a significant development in the Indo-Pacific region, offering a substantial deterrent against the proliferation of Chinese Wing Loong II armed drones, which have been supplied by Beijing to Pakistan, a key regional ally. This acquisition underscores India's commitment to bolstering its defense capabilities and enhancing regional stability in the face of evolving geopolitical challenges.

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(Inputs from agencies)

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