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On Thursday, a senior government official asserted that the average estimated cost of MQ-9B long endurance drones for India would be 27% less than the price incurred by other countries that had purchased it from the US. The official also claimed that unless India requests additional features during negotiations, the price will most likely go even lower. The latest formal development towards the potential procurement of 31 of these drones was the “acceptance of necessity” accorded by the Defence procurement Council, which occurred on June 15. He also definitely said that negotiations on the pricing problem had not started as of yet. He clarified that the pricing problem is unrelated to this.

The US government’s drones are estimated to have cost $3,072 million.

According to him, each drone costs USD 99 million, and the UAE, one of the few nations that owns them, paid USD 161 million for each one. According to him, the MQ-9B India is trying to purchase is comparable to the UAE’s but has a better configuration.

At USD 69 apiece, the US paid for sixteen of these drones, although they were merely “green aircraft” without sensors, armaments, or certification. He claimed that 60–70% of the price is made up by features like payloads, censors, and weaponry, adding that even the US bought five of them for USD 119 million each.

The price for India is working out to be less than others because of the scale of the transaction and the possibility that the manufacturer has returned a significant portion of its initial investment from prior deals, the source added on the condition of anonymity.

However, he went on to say that India could have to integrate some of its own missiles and radars with these drones, which might result in a price adjustment. The comments were made a day after the Congress sought complete openness in the multi-billion dollar drone agreement between India and the US, saying that the 31 MQ-9B predator drones were purchased at a higher price. According to sources, this claim may have been made in “ignorance”.

In response to rumours that the Air Force had some concerns over the drones, they stated that it is anticipated that all of these wings of the defence forces will voice their opinions during consultation. But they went on to say that the Navy, Army, and Air Force had all approved their purchases.

They stated that major components and subsystems, like as engines, radar processor units, avionics, sensors, and software, will be produced and sourced from India, which is seeking to export 15-20% of its technological know-how.

India plans to purchase 11 of these drones off-the-shelf to suit its urgent demands after both governments have given the agreement their final approval, and the remaining drones will be constructed in India, according to the sources.

They warned that since the advanced weaponry are sure to frighten and worry India’s opponents, there may be attempts to “scuttle” the agreement by spreading misleading information. These cutting-edge drones will enable India to efficiently surveill its adversaries. One of them said, “It will greatly lessen the possibility of our enemies surprising us.”

According to them, these drones will give India’s military forces better capabilities for monitoring the nation’s land and sea borders.

They said that the agreement would be open and equitable since it would involve the US and Indian governments.

In what is believed to be a part of his ambitions to make India a centre for drone manufacture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US finalised the drone contract when he was on his high-profile visit to Washington.

The high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drones can carry four Hellfire missiles and about 450 kg of explosives, and they can stay in the air for more than 35 hours.

General Atomics leased two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones to the Indian Navy in 2020 for a year of monitoring in the Indian Ocean. After that, the lease’s term was extended.


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