The Trump administration has approved the $2 billion sale of General Atomics naval surveillance drones to India in another sign of the growing military-to-military cooperation between the two countries. The deal still needs the OK from Congress.
The sale of at least 22 of the MQ-9B unarmed SkyGuardian unmanned aircraft, an upgraded version of the armed MQ-1 Predator drone equipped with multiple radar platforms designed for use in maritime search operations, had been expected during the visit Monday of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House.
"We are pleased that the U.S. government has cleared the way for the sale of the MQ-9B Guardian to the Indian government," Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, said in a statement. (SkyGuardian is the manufacturer's name but it most often is called just the Guardian.)
President Donald Trump referred indirectly to the deal in his first White House meeting Monday with Modi. Trump said it "always makes us feel very good" when other countries purchase American-made military equipment.
"There's nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment. Nobody even close," Trump said.
In remarks Tuesday to the 42nd annual leadership summit of the U.S.-India Business Council, Vice President Mike Pence said that the U.S. will be selling AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and C-17 transports to India in addition to the SkyGuardians.
In a Fact Sheet, the White House said that completion of the Guardian, Apache and C-17 sales "would increase bilateral defense trade to nearly $19 billion, supporting thousands of United States jobs."
If India agreed, U.S. offers to sell F-16 and F/A-18 fighter aircraft to India "would represent the most significant defense cooperation between the United States and India to date," the Fact Sheet said.
At the White House, Modi said that "he strengthening of India's defense capabilities, with the help of USA, is something that we truly appreciate."
"We have also decided to enhance maritime security cooperation between the two nations. President Trump and I have also spoken about strengthening bilateral defense technology and our trade and manufacturing partnership, which we believe will be mutually beneficial to us," Modi said.
Last month, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced that its MQ-9B SkyGuardian set a company endurance record of slightly more than two days airborne.
The aircraft took off May 16 from the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona with 6,065 pounds of fuel. The drone flew at altitudes between 25,000 and 35,000 feet and landed 48.2 hours later on May 18 with 280 pounds of reserve fuel left, the company said.