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Desperate For Armed Drones, Why Did India ‘Outrightly Reject’ American MQ-9 Reaper Drones?

During a recent high profile visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper to India for the 2+2 ministerial dialogue, the sales of long-sought MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones was one of the agenda on the table.

However, according to some recent reports, New Delhi outrightly refused the offer after one of its three services raised a question on the proposed $3 billion deal, citing the cost-worthiness of the aircraft.

If formalized the proposal called for the sales of 30 MQ-9B armed SkyGuardian drones, 10 for each service. The joint services procurement would have seen the first six MQ-9B SkyGuardians worth $600 million (Rs 4,400 crore) purchased outright from US firm General Atomics and delivered to the Indian army, navy, and air force over the next few months—two for each service. The remaining 24 drones were to have been acquired over the next three years.

This comes as a surprise to many defense experts, as India had been eagerly looking forward to acquire these UCAVs. The costs incurred would have been Rs. 900 crore per unit along with a 10% additional annual maintenance cost.

Along with this, the deal would have given no transfer of technology or offsets, an issue raised during several internal meetings.

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