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India likely to get MQ-9B combat drones soon

New Delhi, Nov 11 (IANS) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin discussed wide range of defence and strategic issues during bilateral talks in New Delhi on Friday.

It is likely that India will get American ‘MQ-9B’ combat drones soon as the US Defence Secretary Austin assured that his government is making continuous efforts in this direction.

Defence experts say that American drones have the capability to fly at a height of up to 40,000 feet. Besides the ability to fly at significant heights, these drones are equipped with weapons and can also be used for intelligence gathering and surveillance.

These unmanned aircraft can be used for early warning, electronic warfare, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. An important feature of these drones is that they can fly for about 30 to 40 hours at a time without being affected by any kind of weather, they add.

Austin said: “During the meeting, we discussed the security challenges and the threat posed. However, the entire conversation did not focus solely on these issues.”

Regarding the MQ-9B drone, the US Defence Secretary said: “Today, I do not have any new announcement on this subject. We will announce it at the right time. We are doing everything so that India gets this capability.”

Apart from this, India and the US are going to co-produce an armored vehicle. India has already sent a formal request to the US for the purchase of 31 MQ-9B armed Hunter Killer drones. India wants to complete the final contract in the current financial year.

As per reports, out of the total 31 drones to be purchased from the US, 15 drones can be given to the Indian Navy, eight to the Army and the remaining 8 drones can be provided to the Air Force.

The ministers, during the talks, also explored ways and means to advance their defence technology cooperation with joint research in critical areas.

They reviewed the progress of the India-US Defence Industrial Ecosystem, INDUS-X, which was launched in June this year and aims to expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses and academic institutions of India and US.

Secretary Austin welcomed India’s decision to elevate to full membership of the Combined Maritime Forces, a multilateral construct headquartered in Bahrain.

Singh symbolically handed over to Austin some items recovered in Assam as part of the US Defence POW MIA Accounting Agency Mission. The items include parts of parachute, uniform and airplane of the US forces from the World War II-era. The Ministers, before concluding, drew up an agenda for future joint work for their teams.

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