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

Lazy eyes listen


The Indian military may be looking to acquire more Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and combat helicopters from the United States, in addition to the 31 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs that are already in the works.

According to The Hindu newspaper, the country’s Chief of Defence Staff has authorised two studies on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and armoured helicopters utilised by all three services (Army, Air Force, and Navy).

According to a defence source with knowledge of the situation, these studies were “meant to optimise 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.

According to the source, the Indian military is also planning to modernise its fleet of Israeli Heron MALE stones. The improvement, which is expected to cost 210 billion Indian rupees ($2.5 billion), has been in the works for some years. It will feature weaponization as well as satellite communication.

In June, India’s defence ministry approved a deal to purchase 31 MQ-9B drones from the United States for an estimated $3 million via the US Foreign Military Sales route. Last month, the defence ministry issued a Letter of Request to the US government, which will be used to negotiate and finalise the terms of the agreement, including the cost.

The second research will focus on armoured helicopters and is scheduled to be completed in the coming months. According to the source, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has traditionally operated attack helicopters, but the army has recently pushed to establish its own fleet of strike helicopters.

While both the army and the IAF are deploying the first batches of indigenously manufactured Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), each comprising of 15 machines, a larger agreement for 156 LCH worth 450 billion rupees ($5.4 billion) is pending approval. Meanwhile, the government has approved in-principle clearance for the purchase of 39 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the United States, according to the site. The IAF now has roughly two dozen similar helicopters in service, with the freshly purchased units joining them.

Last month, India’s defence ministry authorised a $5.4 billion spending package that includes the purchase of 12 Russian Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets constructed under licence for the Indian Air Force by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).