‘Pakistan negotiating drone deal with US’

Friday, January 7, 2011

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan, which wants American drones for taking on militants, is still working on a deal with the US to acquire its own fleet of the surveillance aircraft, a media report said Friday.

The drone system, for which negotiations are on between the two countries, is known as Shadow-200 and is currently used by the US Navy and the Marine Corps, Dawn News reported.

It is equipped with an infrared camera, which relays real time videos to a ground control station. It is a surveillance aircraft and is not equipped with weapons attached to the drones the Americans use to target militants in northwestern Pakistan.

Pakistan originally wanted weapon-equipped drones but the US 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 on board weapons and longer surveillance range”, diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by the daily.

The Shadow-200 system includes a ground station and four “birds” commonly known as drones and costs about $40 million. It takes about 36 to 48 months to deliver a system.

The sources said that Pakistan had reservations about both the quoted price and the time it took 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 such source.

Pakistani negotiators, while complaining about the long delivery wait, said they realised that the procedures involved did not allow speedy delivery.

“Theres need for congressional approvals, then there is a cumbersome contracting system and legal wrangles involved in the approval of funds,” said one diplomatic source.

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

The offer to sell Shadow-200 drones was made by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates during a trip to Islamabad in January 2010.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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