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U.S. Air Force and India start joint development of UAVs

The US Air Force Research Laboratories have signed an agreement with an Indian startup to jointly research and develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ellen M. Lord said on July 21, according to Indian television channel NDTV, Boyko Nikolov reports on Bulgarian Military.

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U.S. Air Force and India start joint development of UAVs

Maintainers from the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare to tow an MQ-9 Reaper UAV before Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, July 23, 2019. Reapers are maintained, launched and recovered from deployed locations around the world but are remotely operated from bases with the United States (Picture source: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Mozer O. Da Cunha, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs)

“I would like to emphasize a very interesting project that we are currently negotiating – the joint development of a UAV launched from the air with the research laboratories of the US Air Force, Indian Air Force, Defense Research and Development Organization of India and an Indian startup company,” Lord said. This statement is to consider in the framework of the fact that the Indian armed forces intend to acquire the American-made MQ-9 Reaper (Predator-B) reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicles (attack drones).

India informed the American side of its interest. The publication notes the relevance of the purchase against the background of the confrontation with China, which is armed with the Wing Loong II strike drone. But the United States may be afraid to supply MQ-9 Reapers, due to a possible leak of technology to Russia, another key supplier of weapons to India.

The United States has offered India to acquire 30 Sea Guardian UAVs for $4Bn. The Sea Guardian is the equivalent of the Predator-B, intended for the U.S. Navy. But, being unarmed, this UAV doesn’t match the Indian requirements.

Indian-made MALE Rustom drones are under development and will not carry strike weapons. The Defense Research and Development Organization of India (DRDO) plans to release a prototype MALE Rustom drone by the end of 2020.