India keen on buying Guardian drones
India looks to acquire 22 MQ-9B Guardian drones from U.S. In Picture: U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) and U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) Guardian Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).Wiki Commons/ U.S. Customs and Border Protection

India has shown keen interest in buying armed Predator drones from the United States, but emerging reports indicate that the Obama administration is more likely to positively respond to the request for MQ-9B Guardian drones. The Indian Navy wants 22 drones developed by General Atomics for maritime surveillance.

The approval of the sale might be the first after India was designated as a major defence partner under the Obama administration. The U.S. has already started the inter agency process for speedy approval, PTI reported.

The MQ-9B Guardian is a larger and heavier aircraft than MQ-1 Predator. They are likely to be equipped with Seavue radar system that provides inverse synthetic aperture radar and weather detection and avoidance capabilities, MTS-B electro-optical/infrared sensor with laser illuminator/rangefinder, and an automatic identification system (AIS). The MQ-9B Guardian will not be armed.

Sources said that if green signalled, it would help in "sealing India, U.S. defence relations" and could be considered as a "lasting legacy" for U.S. President Barack Obama's Asia-Pacific pivot.

Moreover, the issue of Guardian drone sale was discussed during Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's recent visit to Pentagon. U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter had also assured his Indian counterpart of personally "championing" it "within the system."

Later this year, General Atomics is also set to open its office in India with an experienced hand as its global chief executive, Dr. Vivek Lall. Lall's previous job as Boeing vice-president and country head saw India and U.S. conclude defence deals for C17 strategic lift, P-8I aircraft and Harpoon Missiles.

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