The three Services have since finalised the Qualitative Requirements and the all the processing has been completed

Multi-billion deals for 30 armed drones from the U.S. and six advanced submarines under Project-75I are likely to be taken by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in April for approval, a government official said.

“All the procedures have been completed and the deals are likely to be taken up at the next meeting of the DAC for approval,” the official said. “There is no DAC in March, the next one is scheduled in April.”

India has been looking to procure 30 armed drones, 10 for each service, from the U.S. but the process has been repeatedly delayed over the last couple of years. While the Navy has a pressing requirement for the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones, there have been questions on their utility for the Army and Air Force, given the high cost of the platform.

The three Services have since finalised the Qualitative Requirements and the all the processing has been completed. The case is now ready to be put up before the DAC, the official stated.

Last November, the Navy inducted two MQ-9B Sea Guardian unarmed drones procured from the U.S. on lease for one year.

The U.S. has given in principle approval for the sale of these armed drones to India sometime back and the deal came up for discussion during the India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue last October.

However, since the stand-off with China in Eastern Ladakh last May, the need for long endurance drones to maintain continuous surveillance of the border has been acutely felt and the armed forces are in the process of procuring drones of several other categories as well.

Submarine Deal

In January 2020, the DAC had shortlisted Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as the Indian partners for the P-75I deal worth over ₹45,000 crore. Once the DAC clears it, the Navy will issue the Request For Proposal (RFP) to the two Indian companies who would respond to it in partnership with a foreign Original Equipment manufacturer (OEM).

The delay in the P-75I deal was the extra caution at each step of the process as this was being done for the first time, the official stated.

This project is being processed through the Strategic Partnership (SP) model of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which aims to promote the role of Indian industry in defence manufacturing and build a domestic defence industrial ecosystem.

While there are two Indian companies shortlisted, there are five foreign OEMs selected. They are Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) (South Korea), Naval Group (France), Navantia (Spain), Rosoboronexport (Russia) and TKMS (Germany).