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US offers India discount on Guardian drones, proposes to set up maintenance facility too

In 2018, the US had offered India the armed version of the Guardian drones, which were originally authorised in surveillance configuration.

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New Delhi: The US has offered India a discount in the proposed $3 billion deal for 20 Sky Guardian and 10 Sea Guardian drones, while also offering to set up a maintenance and repair (MRO) centre that will cater to all such American systems in the region, ThePrint has learnt.

While it was not immediately known how much discount has been offered, sources in the defence and security establishment said discussions are on.

They said that once the defence ministry clears the first tri-service procurement project, further cost discussions will take place.

As reported by ThePrint in March this year, while the deal had been hanging in the balance for a while, the three Services have finally agreed on procuring the system.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar had Monday chaired a meeting of the Defence Procurement Board (DPB), which had discussed the project.

Sources told ThePrint that there need to be further discussions before the DPB clears the proposal, after which it will be sent to the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) that is chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Once the DAC clears the deal, the final clearance will come from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security. 

‘Healthy discussions will continue’

Speaking on the issue Tuesday, the Navy’s Vice Chief, Vice Admiral Satish Namdeo Ghormade, said there is a process for procurement under which the stakeholders will continue to have healthy discussions.

“That process is on. The whole effort of the procurement is that we take a very balanced decision and therefore inputs of all stakeholders are taken. The process is on and we have progressed quite a bit. This will move to DAC in a short while,” Ghormade said in response to a question during a briefing on the upcoming commissioning of the first Visakhapatnam class of guided missile destroyer and the fourth Scorpene submarine.

The erstwhile Donald Trump administration in the US had expected the drone deal to be announced at the 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi on 27 October 2020, but India did not give in to the hard American push to seal the deal.

In 2018, the US had offered India the armed version of the Guardian drones, which were originally authorised for sale for only surveillance operations.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)


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