NEW DELHI :

India is to soon finalise a proposal to procure 30 armed Predator drones from the US for the three wings of the armed forces at an estimated cost of about 21,000 crores. 

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is to meet in the coming days to give its green signal to the acquisition of the MQ-9B long-endurance drones, armed with air-to-ground missiles, a person familiar with the matter said.  

Once the DAC clears the deal, it is to be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the person said. Many key details of the proposal including the cost and the weapons the drones will carry have been clinched, the person said adding that the deal will be cleared “soon.” 

The person however did not give a time frame by when the deal would be signed. Indian foreign and defence ministers are set to meet their counterparts in Washington next month for the India-US “2+2″ talks with speculation rife that the deal could be signed during the visit.  

All three services are to get 10 of the remotely piloted drones each. The drones are manufactured by General Atomics and capable of remaining airborne for around 36 hours. They can be deployed on a number of missions including surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and destroying targets. 

The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Predator-B drone is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance and high-altitude surveillance. 

The Indian Navy is already operating two leased Predator drones for maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean, where the Chinese Navy has increased its activity in recent years. 

The acquisition of the drones is seen as a force multiplier at a time when India is engaged in a standoff on the border with China. According to news reports China already has this capability and is selling its drones to close ally Pakistan.  

Pakistan is suspected to have used drones have been used to carry out attacks in India including an explosives-laden drone to target the Jammu Air Force station in June.

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