India is planning to buy 30 armed drones from the United States to boost its defence, according to an American media report.
Citing unnamed officials, Bloomberg, a New York-based international news agency, said India will approve in April the $3 billion purchase of 30 MQ-9B Predator drones manufactured by San Diego-based General Atomics.
Currently, India’s drones can only be used for surveillance and reconnaissance but the addition of armed drones will add to India’s military capabilities, the report said.
India is emerging as a strategic defense partner for the U.S., particularly in countering Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean and some areas of Southeast Asia, it was pointed out. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is in the midst of a 10-year, $250 billion military modernization.
Pentagon officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to visit India this month, while President Joe Biden will soon join counterparts from India, Japan and Australia in the first-ever meeting of the “Quad” bloc. The leaders will meet virtually on March 12 to discuss issues including supply chains, maritime security and climate change.
The MQ-9B drone can fly for about 48 hours and carry a payload of about 1,700 kilograms (3,700 pounds), Bloomberg said.