US releases Category One UAV technology to India, mulls Predator deal

The US has confirmed that the critical Category One UAV technology from US-based General Atomics has been released, acceding to India’s strong request. Also, the Indian Air Force has requested for 100 units of Predator C Avenger aircraft worth $8 bn.

Highly placed sources told FE, “The White House under President Donald Trump spearheaded the interagency process to make a very significant policy change in favour for India by granting this technology as desired by India based on senior Indian government requests.”

As reported by FE earlier, Indian Navy had sent the letter of request for 22 Sea Guardians in June 2016 and under the Obama administration no tangible action was taken. However, the biggest tangible take away from the Trump-Modi deliberations in Washington DC recently was operationalisation of the major defence partner relationship.

General Atomics chief executive Vivek Lall, a former Boeing official and NASA scientist, who is considered as the father of US India defence relations, met US Vice President Pence post the Prime Minister Modi visit.

Lall had commented, “We are extremely pleased President Trump and Prime Minister Modi have had excellent deliberations and the path forward for a game changer in US India defence relations has been charted. Given the Sea Guardian’s capabilities such a US response to the Indian Navy request demonstrates a major change in US policy because this type of aircraft capability is only exported to a very select few of America’s closest defence partners. This represents tangible implementation of US Congress’ designation of India as a major defence partner.”

According to sources, India has been requesting predator technology for several years, and it was only the combination of Trump and Modi that they were able to move the decision to this point. India was able to join MTCR after significant role of United States backing its entry. Observers term this as another major foreign policy success for Modi.

Earlier this year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had also officially requested the US government for General Atomics Predator C Avenger aircraft. This request is being actively considered by the White House as a second step after operationalising the 22 Guardian aircraft for the Indian Navy.

As military aviation transforms globally to autonomous systems, US and India have a great opportunity to collaborate at the highest levels of technology and innovation. Overall Indian requirement for UAVs is approximately 650 units.

By: Financial Express

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