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India may opt for more US drones, combat helicopters – media

New Delhi has cleared a deal to procure 31 MQ-9Bs drones and is considering the feasibility of other purchases

The Indian military may be looking to acquire more Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), as well as combat helicopters from the US, in addition to 31 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs, the deal for which is already in process.

The country’s Chief of Defense Staff has ordered two studies on UAVs and armored helicopters used by all three services (Army, Air Forces, and Navy), The Hindu newspaper reported.

A defense source with knowledge of the matter informed the outlet that these studies were “meant to optimize the number of platforms required, as well as the resources and avoid duplication.”


One study recommended procuring 31 MQ-9Bs drones – this deal was announced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington – and 155 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs.

“While the deal for MQ-9Bs is in progress, the division of the 155 MALE UAVs is yet to be decided,” the sources told the outlet.

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Also, the Indian military is now poised to upgrade its fleet of Israeli Heron MALE stones, the report said. The upgrade, estimated at 210 billion Indian rupees ($2.5 bln), has been pending for several years. It will include weaponization and incorporate the use of satellite communication.


India’s defense ministry has cleared a deal to procure 31 MQ-9Bs from the US at an estimated cost of $3 million through the US Foreign Military Sales route in June. Last month, the defense ministry issued a Letter of Request to the US government, based on which the details of the deal, including the cost, will be negotiated and finalized.

The second study is on armored helicopters – it is expected to be carried out in the coming months.  According to the report, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has traditionally been responsible for operating attack helicopters, but lately the army has sought to have its own fleet of strike helicopters.

While both the army and the IAF are inducting the initial batches of indigenously-developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), consisting of 15 machines, a larger deal for 156 LCH, estimated at 450 billion rupees ($5.4 billion), is awaiting approval. Meanwhile, the outlet noted, the government has given in-principle approval for the procurement of 39 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the US. Currently, the IAF has around two dozen such helicopters in service, while the newly acquired machines are likely to go to the army.

READ MORE: US Predator drone deal: does it really benefit India?


Last month, India’s defense ministry approved a $5.4 billion spending package, which oversees various weaponry and ammunition, including the purchase of 12 Russian Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets that will be built under license for the Indian Air Force by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

October 16, 2023 at 08:54PM

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