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MQ9 B drone sales to India enters next step as Congressional notification completes 30 days

MQ-9B Sky Guardian uses the Laguna Army Airfield for testing and certification. Photo: US Army (Released).

WASHINGTON (PTI): The sale of 31 MQ9-B SkyGuardian Drones to India is expected to be fast-tracked now that the major hurdle of mandatory 30 days of Congressional notification is likely to pass without any objection from the lawmakers on Sunday, but for the routine procedural matters posed by the upcoming general elections.

The Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified the US Congress in February about the determination of the State Department of a possible Foreign Military Sale to India of 31 MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of USD 3.99 billion.

The 31 MQ9-B SkyGuardian Drones itself cost USD 1.70 billion, while the rest of the services including technology and equipment are estimated to cost USD 2.29 billion. In addition to 31 MQ-9B SkyGuardian Aircraft, the proposed deal includes 161 Embedded Global Positioning & Inertial Navigation Systems (EGIs), 35 L3 Rio Grande Communications Intelligence Sensor Suite.

"This sale is necessary in furtherance of the US foreign policy and national security objectives," the notification said.

The next step is for the United States to send a letter of offer and acceptance to India, which under normal circumstances should be considered as a mere formality.

Announced by US President Joe Biden during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington DC in June 2023, all major legal and bureaucratic procedures on the issue have already been cleared from the Indian side including that from the Union Cabinet.

After the letter goes out from the State Department, the next step is for India to give a formal acceptance letter on the matter to the United States, which is essential for the formal price negotiations between the two countries to begin.

The announcement of the general election, which brings into force the Model Code of Conduct, is unlikely to pose any last legal hurdle.

"Model Code is not applicable to any matter pertaining directly to the defence forces, be it the recruitments/promotions for defence forces, any service matters pertaining to them, defence purchases of any kind, tenders relating to the matter of the defence forces and therefore no reference in such matters need to be sent to the Election Commission," says the Model Code of Conduct issued by the Election Commission of India.

"These instructions shall be treated as standing instructions of the Commission and will be applicable for all elections in future. This may be brought to the notice of all concerned for future guidance," said the Election Commission of India in a letter issued on the issue to the Ministry of Defence on March 27, 2014, in response to a query.


India  US  MQ9 B  Drone  Contract  

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