US official says air-launched drone to be developed jointly with Indian startup

Photo: Ellen M. Lord, US under secretary of defence.

New Delhi: The United States is negotiating a joint development project for an air-launched drone with India involving both nations’ armed forces and defence research agencies, an American official from the Pentagon has said.

At the ‘India Ideas Summit‘ organised by the US-India Business Council yesterday, the official said that the US Air Force‘s research laboratories have signed up a cooperation agreement with an Indian startup to support the co-development of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

“I would like to highlight a very exciting project we are currently negotiating — air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV will be a co-development programme between the US Air Force Research Labs, the Indian Air Force, India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation, and an Indian startup company,” US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord was quoted as saying. by a Press Trust of India report from Washington.

Lord is the Pentagon’s pointperson for the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). She said the next DTTI group meeting will happen in the third week of Sep. this year and the second meeting of the DTTI industrial collaboration forum a week before that.

She also noted that the US-India defence ties had made great strides in the recent years, with closer relationship between the two government and increased stability in the Indo-Pacific region. In the last 10 years, she said, the US has strived to become India’s first choice in defence solutions and the military sales has grown exponentially.

Since 2007, India has bought American military hardware worth $18 billion, including the Lockheed Martin Corp. C-130J special operations aircraft, Boeing Co. P-8I maritime surveillance plane and C-17 heavy lift transport aircraft, and BAE Systems M777 ultralight howitzers, which are all equipment currently deployed in the Indian Army face-off with the China‘s People’s Liberation Army troopers in Ladakh de facto border.

“The industrial cooperation is a key focus area for the future of defence collaboration and we think that this ‘Industry Guidance‘ will increase industrial collaboration within the DDTI framework,” she said, releasing the document that will help in partnerships under the DTTI framework.

“The United States welcomes any partnership that enhances US national security objectives, decreases defence procurement costs and leads to greater supply chain stability,” Lord said, welcoming India’s Defence Procurement Procedure changes that have proposed leasing of equipment as one of the processes for acquiring weapons delivery platforms.

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