New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has stated that India is yet to finalise with the United States the “price and other terms and conditions” of the purchase of 31 MQ-9B high altitude long endurance remotely piloted aircraft systems and it is “subject to negotiations”.
Of the 31 MQ-9B drones, 16 would be Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian variety.
The MoD statement on June 24 comes as a clarification of reports circulating on social media stating that India has agreed to purchase those aircrafts at an amount much higher than what some other countries have paid for. The MoD press statement called such reports “speculative”, “uncalled for” and having “ulterior motives and aimed at derailing the due acquisition of the purchase process.
This 2020 report from US News states that the Trump administration was pressuring India into buying the Predator drones.
“India Resists U.S. Pressure to Buy Armed Drones as Trump Looks for Foreign Policy ‘Wins’”https://t.co/JCbER8k28y
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) June 24, 2023
The statement, issued through the Press Information Bureau (PIB), said, the Ministry Defence Acquisition Council (DAQ), this June 15, gave its acceptance of necessity (AoN) for acquiring 31 MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft systems produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems through the foreign military sale route.
The California-based private company manufactures aerial vehicles and radar systems for the American military besides selling them commercially across the world.
“AoN noted the estimated cost of 3,072 million US dollars provided by the US government. However, price will be negotiated once policy approval of the US government is received,” the statement said. It further clarified that upon receiving policy approval, the Indian side “will compare the acquisition cost with the best price offered by General Atomics (GA) to other countries. The procurement is in progress and would be completed as per the laid down procedure.”
The government’s clarification on the pricing comes days after a June 15 Reuters report, quoting ‘sources’ said “India will buy 31 drones made by General Atomics worth slightly over three billion US dollars.” The report however added that “India’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.”
Media reports from various countries through the years give an estimation of prices at which such MQ-9 drones have earlier been acquired. One such media report said the United Kingdom purchased an MQ-9 reaper in 2021 for 13 million pounds which also included the associated kit.