India have been offered the armed version of Guardian unmanned drones by the United States, the acquisition of which has been under discussion for almost a year now.India is the only third country and the first non-NATO member country for this offer.
Technical briefings have taken place and discussion are now underway for determining the number of drones that India would like to purchase.
The only other countries offered the armed drones are the United Kingdom and Italy. Both of them are the NATO partners of the US.
At first India was offered General Atomics’ unarmed MQ-9 Guardian drones for maritime surveillance and approved the sale of 22 to the country. The offer has been made during the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in 2017 for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump.
But India was more interested in armed version of the drone — Predator-B — which the United States agreed to “about a year ago”, as had been reported by news agencies.
However, there is no progress in the other offers made by the US regarding Terminal High Altitude Area Defence and Patriot-3 missile defence systems to dissuade India from purchasing Russian S-400s.
Indian purchases of US defence materials have gone up from zero in 2008 to $15 billion(1500 crores) in 2019. Recent buys include MH-60R Seahawk helicopters ($2.6 billion,260 crore in Indian value), Apache helicopters ($2.3 billion,230 crore in Indian value), P-8I maritime patrol aircraft ($3 billion,300 crore in Indian value), and M777 howitzers ($737 million,73.7 crore in Indian value), according to the state department.
India was the first non-treaty partner to be offered a MTCR Category-1 Unmanned Aerial System – the Sea Guardian UAS manufactured by General Atomics. India asked for armed drones and now discussions are now going on for its acquisition.