By Naveen Kapoor
New Delhi [India], June 29 (ANI): The cost of 31 Predator drones, which India will be buying from the United States, is still in the early stage of negotiations and a fair distance away from the final figure, Defence Ministry officials said on Thursday.
“So far India has received indicative price and data from the United States Office of Defence Cooperation and the procurement process has to go through various laps of negotiations before finalization of price,” a senior Defence Ministry official told ANI.
Congress has questioned the government alleging that India is buying Predator MQ 9B drones at a price higher than that paid by some other countries. Congress also alleged that the technology is outdated and asked why the Modi government is in a hurry to buy drones “without the approval of Cabinet Committee on Security”.
Senior Defence Ministry officials rebutted the claims made by Congress and said it is a transparent government-to-government negotiation in which India is directly dealing with the United States.
General Atomics can sell high-technology drones to India only via the US government under its foreign military sales programme. Any such high technology deal comes under Federal acquisition regulations and requires a US Congress nod, the Defence Ministry official said.
Foreign military sales programme allows friendly foreign countries of USA to purchase defence articles and services from the US government. This operates on a no profit no loss basis to the US government.
The process is followed by the US Department of Defence to procure for its own military needs, the official said, adding that due process is being followed as per provisions of India’s Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020.
The purchase of drones will increase interoperability with US military forces, officials added. Indian Navy is already using two MQ 9B drones on lease
On the pricing issue, the official said: “Indicative price may go up and also may go down depending on the additional capacity, technology and capability features India may want to add in MQ-9B HALE RPAS. India is looking for a competitive price and also aiming for 15 to 20 per cent technology transfer from General Atomics that includes assembly and production in India, public sector and private Indian companies are also in the race to partner with General Atomics.”
This will give a new dimension to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making India a hub of drones. Army, Navy and Air Force along with the Institute of System Studies Analysis, IDSA had done a technical analysis on the requirement and had twice made recommendations to go for Predator drones, officials said, categorically denying that there is any difference of opinion or any objection raised by the Air Force on the acquisition of drones as reported by sections of media.
“There is no objection raised by the Air Force and no difference of opinion among the Army, Navy and Air Force on the acquisition of drones,” a top Defence Ministry source said, adding that once drones are acquired “it will increase India’s capacity of surveillance, intelligence gathering and reconnaissance in the Indian Ocean, continental boundaries and most importantly eastern and western borders”.
Drones India is looking to buy are of dual-use and can carry a huge payload of weapons and can fly very high. They can get high-resolution pictures even amid hostile situations, officials said.
General Atomics also sold the Predator MQ 9B drones to other countries including Belgium. UAE, Taiwan, Morocco and the UK. India has placed the largest order of 31 drones armed with sensors and all associated equipment including weapons.
Large analytics and processing data are also part of the proposal, according to the Defence Ministry official who also said that the cost of MQ 9B is 27 per cent lower than the cost incurred by other countries. Indicative, estimated price for 31 drones is USD 3072 million.
Before finalization of pricing, it has to pass through various layers besides the technical compliance evaluation committee and contract negotiation committee before it reaches the Cabinet Committee on Security. (ANI)
Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from a syndicated feed of ANI; only the image & headline may have been reworked by News Services Division of World News Network Inc Ltd and Palghar News and Pune News and World News
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