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U.S. drone sale to India proceeds to next phase

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.’s (GA-ASI) MQ-9B drone.
| Photo Credit: PTI

The possible sale of 31 MQ-9B high altitude long endurance armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from U.S. firm General Atomics to India progressed to the next stage after a 30 day Congressional notification period concluded on March 1. The deal, pegged at an estimated $3.99 billion, was announced in June last year during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit to Washington DC.

“The next step after the conclusion of congressional review is for the parties to agree upon and sign a Letter of Offer and Acceptance,” a U.S. State Department official told The Hindu. The procurement decisions and timelines were now with the Government of India, according to the official . With general elections looming in India, it is possible that the next steps will be on hold until May, when the elections are expected.

The sale had run into difficulties in January , in the U.S. Congress, before the formal notification period began over allegations that Indian government agents were involved in a plot to kill Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a U.S. Citizen, on U.S. soil. The head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, gave his approval for the deal to progress after receiving assurances from the Biden administration that India would probe the alleged plot and cooperate with the U.S. in its own investigation.

The proposed deal comprises eight Sky Guardians for the Indian Army, eight for the Indian Air Force and 15 Sea Guardians for the Indian Navy. It also includes ammunition such as  Hellfire missiles and small diameter bombs.

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