The India Navy is already using two unarmed SeaGuardian drones that it leased last year from the US

New Delhi: In the pipeline for more than a couple of years, India is now close to acquiring 30 Predator drones from the United States. A high-level meeting will be held on Monday in the Defence Ministry to discuss the acquisition worth around Rs 21,000 crore.

Top Defence Ministry sources told India Today that the Defence Secretary would chair the meeting to be attended by senior officials.

If the acquisition is cleared in this meeting, it will be forwarded to the Defence Acquisition Council headed by the Defence minister. Then it will be sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security to give its final nod before the contract is signed.

The drones will come armed with advanced systems and weapons packages and enable long-range surveillance and precision strikes. India’s drone shopping list includes the SeaGuardian/SkyGuardian variants of the MQ-9B. Reports said the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force will each get 10 drones each with customised specifications.

The Indian Navy is already using two unarmed SeaGuardian drones that it leased last year from the US for surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Navy is the lead service for the acquisition of these drones.

The option of leasing weapon systems has been provisioned under the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 and the Defence Procurement Manual 2009. This helps India cut back on expenditure, since the responsibility of maintenance also lies with the vendor.

Over the past few years, Indian armed forces have been showing faith in American systems for surveillance requirements. The Indian Navy is already using as many as nine P-8I long-range surveillance planes and is expected to get another nine over the next few years.