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India, US to Co-Develop Air-Launched Drones

India and the US have signed a $22 million agreement to co-develop Air-launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (ALUAV).

The project, to be carried out by the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), aims to develop “small UAVs, avionics, payload power, propulsion, and launch systems through prototyping” for the Indian and US air forces.

The cost of the project will be shared equally by the two countries.

Conceptualized in 2006

According to the Indian ministry of defense, the project stems from a 2006 agreement between the two countries to co-develop defense equipment. 

Under the agreement, renewed in 2015, “joint working groups (JWG) on land, naval, air, and aircraft carrier technologies have been established to focus on mutually agreed projects in respective domains.” The JWG on-air systems will oversee the ALUAV project.

Deputy Undersecretary of the US Air Force, International Affairs, Kelli L. Seybolt, said: “The United States and India share a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” 

“This co-development agreement further operationalizes India’s status as a Major Defense Partner and builds upon our existing strong defense cooperation.”

India: Major Defense Partner 

In 2016, the US designated India as a Major Defense Partner and two years later elevated the country to Strategic Trade Authorization Tier 1 status, “which allows India to receive license-free access to a wide range of military and dual-use technologies regulated by the Department of Commerce.”

Since then, the two nations have signed some key defense and security pacts, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement in 2016, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in 2018, and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement last year.

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