India and the United States have agreed to collaborate on the joint development of a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) under an agreement signed in July this year.
The US Air Force announced on September 3 that the “landmark” agreement was signed by Indian Air Force Air Vice Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari, Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Plans, and Brig. Gen. Brian R. Bruckbauer, Director of the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation (AFSAC) Directorate for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
As explained, the agreement is the inaugural co-development project under the US- India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, a bilateral defense cooperation mechanism that promotes collaborative technology exchange, strengthens cooperative research, and enables co-production/co-development of defense systems for sustainment and modernization of military forces.
“The United States and India share a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, Kelli L. Seybolt. “This co-development agreement further operationalizes India’s status as a Major Defense Partner and builds upon our existing strong defense cooperation.”
The project is valued at more than $22 million with costs shared equally, and marks the largest-ever defense Research, Development, Test and Evaluation collaboration between the United States and India.
The objectives are the design, development, demonstration, test and evaluation of technologies including physical hardware such as small UAVs, avionics, payload power, propulsion, and launch systems through prototyping that meet the operational requirements of the Indian and US Air Forces.
While details on the future UAV remain scarce, photographs from the signing ceremony indicate that the project would focus on the development of an air-launched UAV. Pentagon research agency DARPA is already working on a number of air-launched systems, such as the X-61A Gremlin, and the LongShot UAV.
The co-development project will be carried out jointly between the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
“This important project agreement comes after many months invested by the AFSAC team, AFLCMC program offices, AFRL, Air Force International Affairs, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, as well as our Indian Air Force and DRDO counterparts working together, side-by-side, on common national security interests,” emphasized Bruckbauer. “I am proud of the dedicated teamwork and partnership this Project Agreement represents for both of our countries.”