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India seeks to purchase maritime patrol drones from US

Predator drone. A General Atomics photo

WASHINGTON (PTI): India has sought from the US high-tech multi-mission Predator drones for protecting its maritime assets, especially in the Indian Ocean.

India has conveyed its desire to purchase the drones in a letter of request (LoR) to the US last week, sources said.

This is part of the Indian Government's efforts to fast track its goal to secure the country's maritime assets in particular in the Indian Ocean and detect untoward intrusion like the one during Mumbai terrorist attack on a real time basis.

The LoR comes less than a fortnight after India was inducted into Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and was recognised as a "Major Defence Partner" by the US after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama.

Sources said the request has been made for state-of-the-art multi-mission maritime patrol Predator Guardian UAVs from General Atomics.

The Predator 'Guardian' platform, which provides high altitude wide area long endurance maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability, would help in protection and vigilance of its maritime assets in the Indian Ocean and both its east and west coast.

Flying at an altitude of 50,000 feet, these drones have the capacity to fly non-stop for more than 24 hours and monitor the movement of objects as small as a football on a real time basis, sources said requesting anonymity.

It is understood that India had previously shown interest in purchasing these drones from the US, but the Obama Administration was unable to process these request as India was not a member of MTCR.

Now that India has become a member of MTCR, the US after it granted India the status of Major Defence Partner has started looking into the proposal and is believed to be moving ahead to the next phase of letter of acceptance (LoA).

"Early this month President Obama and Prime Minister Modi affirmed their support for US-India cooperation in promoting maritime security," sources said.

The issue of these drones were personally raised by the Prime Minister during his meeting with the President, to which he is understood to have given a favourable response, sources said requesting anonymity.

Referring to the India US joint statement after Modi-Obama meeting at the White House on June 7, the sources said the two leaders reiterated the importance they attach to ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight and exploitation of resources as per international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and settlement of territorial disputes by peaceful means.

This latest request is in addition to the Predator Avenger request for the Indian Air Force.

It is estimated that India could be looking at over 250 UAVs over the next few years estimated at over US$ 5 billion, industry sources said.

The issue also came up for discussion when the Prime Minister met with American industry leaders during his three-day visit to Washington DC.

In the defence domain, among others he met Merillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin as well as Dr Vivek Lall, chief executive, US and International Strategic Development, at General Atomics.

"Predator-series RPA may be integrated with multiple ISR sensors, including state-of-the-art EO/IR cameras and GA-ASI s Lynx Multi-mode Radar which features a state-of-the-art Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mode that offers all-weather, day / night performance for a wide-area search capability," Dr Lall, an aerospace scientist highly respected by both governments as indicated by government officials, had told PTI.

"Its Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) mode provides a quick and easy method for locating moving vehicles," said Dr Lall.

"The radar's Maritime Wide Area Search (MWAS) mode provides the capability to complete a variety of maritime missions successfully, including coastal surveillance, long-range surveillance, small target detection, and search and rescue operations. Predator-series RPA also are equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for identifying vessels at sea," Dr Lall had told PTI earlier this year.


India  US  Defence  Predator  UAV  Indian Ocean  MTCR  ISR  

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