Washington: According to sources, the US State Depatrment has approved the sale of 22 predator Guardian drones to India. The deal, which is estimated to be worth around $3 bn is being termed as a “game changer” by governmental sources, is likely to play a key factor ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US for his maiden meeting with US President Donald Trump, scheduled to take place on June 26 at the White House.
The sources, who requested anonymity as the deal has not been formally announced, said the sale of 22 predator drones being manufactured by General Atomics is “a game changer” for US-India relations as it finally operationalises India’s status as a “major defence partner” for the US, a designation granted by the Obama administration and formally approved by the US Congress.
The decision has been communicated to the Indian government and the manufacturer by the State Department yesterday, according to the informed governmental sources, one of whom said, “This is the first very significant sign of the Trump administration being more result oriented in its relationship with India compared to Obama administration.”
The US State Department and the White House have not yet confirmed or denied the news, an official announcement is expected soon.
According to General Atomics, the Predator Guardian UAV, also known as the Predator MQ-9 Reaper, is a variant of the Predator B and can be used for wide-area, long- endurance maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It can stay in the air for up to 27 hours and can fly at maximum altitude of 50,000 feet.
The Indian Navy made the request for this intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform last year.
US Aerospace expert Vivek Lall of General Atomics who was pivotal in India acquiring Boeing P8 ISR technology, is believed to have played a key role in fast tracking the decision-making process of the Trump administration for this deal.