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No govt decision yet over procurement of 30 armed drones from US

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HAL signs MoU with Israeli firm to make, sell dronesNew Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) The Defence Ministry has not yet reached any conclusion over procurement of 30 armed drones from US-based General Atomics as the Indian Air Force has raised apprehensions over their usefulness. The deal is valued at approximately $3 billion.

With the disputed borders with China and Pakistan active at the same point of time, the Defence Ministry has clearly stated that they are not in a hurry to sanction procurement in the name of emergency.

During deliberations over the issue in the ministry, apprehensions were raised over the armed drones’ efficacy in the current threat situation. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, who has been tasked to look into inter-services defence acquisitions, was present during the discussion. Sources said that the Air Force has stated that drones even when armed would be ineffective in contested airspace.

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India was earlier looking for procurement of 30 drones from General Atomics. The three services were expected to get 10+10+10 of the MQ-9 Reaper, which has already been approved by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

The US administration had approved sale of armed drones to India equipped with missiles and other systems.

The Indian Navy was also looking for drones to expand its monitoring of the Indian Ocean and to further strengthen surveillance of its coastal boundaries. The drones which will be armed with missiles and radars will be used for maritime reconnaissance.

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MQ-9 has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS (knots true airspeed), can operate up to 50,000 feet, and has a 3,850 pound (1,746 kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores. The aircraft carries 500 per cent more payload and has nine times the horsepower. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance or strike capability for the war fighter.

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To date, the MQ-9 has been acquired by the US Air Force, US Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Royal Air Force, the Italian Air Force, the French Air Force and the Spanish Air Force.

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