Defence Ministry fact-checks reports claiming Govt deal for 31 MQ-9B drones is overpriced
The Indian defence ministry has dismissed unfounded reports circulating on certain social media platforms that discuss the price and other contractual details related to the acquisition of the 31 MQ-9B (16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian) High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for the Tri-Services.
The Indian defence ministry has rejected speculative reports which emerged in sections of social media referring to the price and other terms of purchase of the 31 MQ-9B (16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian) High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for Tri-Services.
While stating that the reports had ulterior motives and aimed at derailing the due acquisition process, the defence ministry said: "Price and other terms & conditions of the purchase are yet to be finalised and subject to negotiations. In this regard, all are requested not to spread fake news/misinformation which can have a serious impact on the morale of the Armed Forces and adversely impact the acquisition process."
Setting the context, the defence ministry statement said that on June 15, 2023, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the procurement of 31 MQ-9B (16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian) High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for the Tri-Services through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route from the United States.
The AoN specified the quantity of UAVs to be acquired along with the necessary equipment. The estimated cost of 3,072 million US dollars, as provided by the US Government, was acknowledged in the AoN. However, the actual price will be negotiated upon receiving policy approval from the US Government. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will compare the procurement cost with the best price offered by General Atomics (GA) to other countries. The procurement process is currently underway and will be carried out in accordance with established procedures.
Through the FMS route, a Letter of Request (LOR) will be submitted to the US Government, detailing the Tri-services' requirements, equipment specifications, and procurement terms.
Based on the LOR, the US Government and MoD will collaborate on finalizing a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA), which will encompass the negotiated equipment details and procurement terms in line with the FMS program. The final terms will be determined based on the price and conditions offered by the US Government and GA to other nations.
The government clarification comes after Trinamool Congress National Spokesperson Saket Gokhale reinvoked the Rafale deal controversy to claim that the Narendra Modi government was "overpaying" for the US drones. He also shared some media reports to substantiate his claim.