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08:20 AM, May 17, 2019
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General Atomics' Sea Guardian drone

India is likely to approve the proposal to buy 12 MQ-9 Sea Guardian drones from the US for its Navy and not 22 of them for $2 billion as planned last year.

“India had plans to purchase 22 Sea Guardian drones for the navy, valued at around $2 billion. Instead, it will be around 12 such drones according to the new proposal, as the ministry wants to maximise the utilisation of the limited financial resources available to it,” a government source told Sputnik.

A formal document is expected to be issued to the US in this regard soon after Washington sends the "price and availability" details for the drone.

In June, 2016, the Indian Defence Ministry sent a Letter of Request (LoR) to the US seeking to purchase 22 MQ-9 Predator B Guardian maritime patrol remotely piloted vehicles from General Atomics for the Indian Navy.

"A request for Information (RFI) for Predator ‘B' Sea Guardian was issued to the US Office of Defence Cooperation on November 14 and the response is awaited,” Dr Subhash Bhamre, India's minister of state for defence, informed the Indian Parliament in December 2017. The deal does not involve technology transfer to India.

India and the US signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in September last year. The drone deal that was put on hold since 2 years has fructified after the signing of the COMCASA. The agreement "will facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing US-origin platforms," according to a joint statement released b the two countries.

India is now looking to buy 10 fewer drones. However, the Indian Defense Ministry will also ask for a non-maritime version of the drone for its army and air force, the report stated further.

Predator B has an endurance of over 27 hours, a speed of 240 knots true airspeed, can operate at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet, and has a 3,850 pound (1,746 kg) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg) of external stores.

The Sea Guardian is the maritime variant of the Predator B. It is fitted with a Raytheon SeaVue multimode maritime radar under its belly that provides wide-area intelligence and surveillance. It can carry out long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance, as well as carry Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, advanced marine avionics, and laser-guided bombs.

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