The recent order from US President Donald Trump to update export restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), with the new speed limit of 800 kmph, will benefit India to acquire proven Predator-B armed and Global Hawk surveillance drones from the US. The two top of line drones has speeds less than 800 kmph.
On Friday Trump has tweaked the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) rules for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and opened its doors for India to acquire the armed drones as well as systems to counter them. The armed drones will also be available to other US allies like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt who have acquired the Chinese armed drones.
“The President has decided to invoke our national discretion to treat a carefully selected subset of missile technology control regime category I unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which cannot travel faster than 800 kmph as category II. This will increase our national security by improving the capabilities of our partners and increase our economic security by opening the expanding UAV market", a statement issued by White House said.
The change in policy means that the UAVs under 800 kmph will no longer be subjected to the strong presumption of denial of the MTCR, the statement added.
As the US defence contractors were restricted by the MTCR, UAS clause, the Chinese have been supplying Wing Loong armed drones to Pakistan and for use in Yemen and Libyan civil war. China has already supplied four Wing Loong armed drones to Pakistan for protection of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar port, as per intelligence reports. China and Pakistan are not the members of the MTCR, hence there is no restriction on the former to export these systems to Islamabad.
The Predator-B is the armed version of Guardian drone and twenty-two of which has been approved for sale to India by the Trump-led administration. Predator B can carry four Hell-fire missiles and two 500-pound laser-guided bombs. The cost of a Predator-B drone is no less than a fighter aircraft, hence the Indian Air Force may have to reduce its limit of manned fighters to create squadrons of armed drones within the present Cabinet sanction of 42 squadrons.