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India, US to co-develop air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle

India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US Department of Defense (DoD) have signed an agreement for the joint development of an air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (ALUAV) under their bilateral Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI): an indication of the deepening defence technology co-operation between the two countries.

Signed on 30 July, the project agreement outlines the collaboration between the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Indian Air Force (IAF), and India's government-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) “towards [the] design, development, demonstration, testing, and evaluation of systems to co-develop” an air-launched UAV prototype, said the Indian government's Press Information Bureau (PIB) in a 3 September statement.

The PIB noted that the DRDO's Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and the AFRL's Aerospace Systems Directorate, along with the Indian and US air forces, will be the main organisations tasked with the project under the DTTI, which was established by Washington and New Delhi in 2012 as a bilateral defence co-operation mechanism to promote technology exchange, strengthen collaborative research, and enable the co-development/co-production of defence systems.

The UAV co-development deal was signed by the co-chairs of the Joint Working Group Air Systems under the DTTI: IAF Air Vice Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari, Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Plans, and US Air Force (USAF) Brigadier General Brian R Bruckbauer, Director of the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation (AFSAC) Directorate for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

Kelli L Seybolt, the USAF's Deputy Undersecretary in charge of international affairs, was quoted in a separate statement as saying, “The United States and India share a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. … This co-development agreement further operationalises India's status as a major defence partner and builds upon our existing strong defence co-operation.”

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