To further enhance its military capabilities and add more firepower to its arsenal, India is planning to purchase 30 armed drones from the US worth $3 billion (approximately Rs 22,000 crore), sources said.
India will be acquiring 30 MQ-9 Reaper, 10 each for the three services, said the sources.
The procurement is being done as India is facing a war-like situation on two fronts with its two hostile neighbours, Pakistan and China.
The approval to take these armed drones could be finalised during Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
To further cement the deal, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to visit India later this month. India is becoming a strategic defence partner for the US, especially countering Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.
These MQ-9B Predator drones are manufactured by San Diego-based General Atomics. The MQ-9B has an endurance of 48 hours and a range of over 6,000 nautical miles. It carries a maximum payload of 2-tonne.
It comes with nine hard-points, capable of carrying sensors and laser-guided bombs besides air-to-ground missiles.
Last year, the Indian Navy took on lease two Sea Guardian drones to enhance surveillance over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The two non-weaponised MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones were leased for one year with an option of extending the period by another year.
Last month, Indian Army Chief, General Manoj Mukund Naravane highlighted the role of drones in military warfare.
“Offensive capabilities in the digital domain can effectively neutralise satellites and networks, denying them at a critical juncture to decisively alter the course of the conflict,” he had stated.
(With IANS inputs)