US rejects Pak demand for supply of ‘armed longer surveillance range’ drones

Friday, January 7, 2011

WASHINGTON - Pakistan-US talks for a surveillance drone aircraft deal seem to be heading nowhere, with Islamabad privately voicing concern about what it says are exorbitant prices and a snail-pace delivery timeline.

Although Pakistan originally wanted weapon-equipped drones, the Americans turned down the request, saying that so far they had not shared this technology with any other nation.

Pakistan was still demanding “regular drones with onboard weapons and longer surveillance range”, the Dawn quoted diplomatic sources, as saying.

However, the drone system that both countries are currently negotiating about is known as Shadow-200, a surveillance aircraft that is not equipped with weapons attached to the drones, which the Americans use to target militants in FATA.

Currently used by the US Navy and the Marine Corps, this drone system is equipped with an infrared camera, which relays real time videos to a ground control station. It is launched from a trailer-mounted pneumatic catapult and is recovered with the aid of arresting gear similar to jets on an aircraft carrier, the report said.

The Shadow-200 system includes a ground station and four ‘birds’ commonly known as drones, and costs about 40 million dollars. It takes about 36 to 48 months to deliver a system, the report added.

The sources said Pakistan had reservations about the quoted price as well as the time taken to deliver a system.

“By the time we receive them it will be too late to use them against the militants we need to subdue,” said one source.

The money for purchasing the drone systems will come from either the Pakistan Counter-Insurgency Fund or the Foreign Military Finances.

“We are still working out the details for purchasing about half a dozen Shadow-200 systems,” the source said.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the details of the talks, but a spokeswoman said that both sides were working hard to provide “the capability they need in order to be successful in this counterinsurgency effort.”

According to the report, the offer to sell Shadow-200 drones was made by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates during a trip to Islamabad in January 2010. (ANI)

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