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Defence Ministry to take up Rs 20,000 crore Predator drones deal with US

New Delhi: In a big step towards strengthening military ties with the US, the Indian Defence Ministry is going to take up the case for the acquisition of 30 Predator drones for the three defence forces at a high-level meeting scheduled to be held on Monday.

A high-level meeting would be taking up the case for acquisition of these drones worth over Rs 20,000 crore at the meeting to be headed by the Defence Secretary on Monday, government sources said here.

If the acquisition is cleared in this meeting, it would be forwarded to the Defence Acquisition Council for final approval by the defence ministry and then it would be for the Cabinet Committee on Security to give its final nod before the contract is signed.

India and the US have been negotiating the deal for more than two years and it is now in the final stages of getting cleared by the government, the sources said. The Indian Navy is the lead service for this acquisition case, and it is jointly putting it up for clearance from the government.

Once approved, all the three services would be getting 10 drones each which would be used for surveillance as well striking targets when required. Predator drones have been inducted into the defence services on lease as they were taken by the Indian Navy under emergency procurement powers given to the services by the government.

Indian Navy has been flying these drones in the Indian Ocean Region and with their over 30 hours of endurance, they are enhancing the domain awareness of the force in the area where the Chinese Navy warships and submarines along with merchant vessels are frequently passing through.

India is also getting drones from Israel which are helping them to get coverage in high altitude areas and have been equipped with the latest surveillance gadgets.