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MQ9B Drones To Bolster India’s Defence

The US State Department approved the sale of 31 MQ-9B drones to India for a price of $4 billion, seven months after India announced its plan to buy them during PM Modi’s visit to Washington DC.

The Pentagon announced it on Thursday, saying the US “Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying the Congress of the possible sale.”

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign military sale to the Government of India of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $3.99 billion.” The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said on Thursday night.


Details of The Deal

The Indian government has requested to buy 31 High Altitude Long Endurance(HALE) MQ-9B UAVs. Among these, the Indian Navy will acquire 15 SeaGuardian drones that can operate from ships and carriers, while the Army and Airforce will each procure eight of the land-based SkyGuardian variants.

Apart from the UAVs, India has requested the purchase of other equipment and attachments for the drones, such as Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs.

The equipment includes: 

– 161 Embedded Global Positioning & Inertial Navigation Systems (EGIs)

– 35 L3 Rio Grande Communications Intelligence Sensor Suites

– 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles

– 16 M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM)

– 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDB)

– 8 GBU-39B/B LSDB Guided Test Vehicles (GTVs) with live fuzes.

In addition to the above, there are also ground control stations, missile launchers, tactical training rounds, high-frequency radios, and radars.


Perspective From Pentagon

According to the Pentagon statement, “This sale will strengthen the US-India strategic relationship and boost Indian defence capabilities. New Delhi is an important regional player ensuring regional stability, peace and prosperity in South Asia.


Pentagon added, “The proposed sale will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation. India has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”


Manufacturing and Delivery

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems will be manufacturing and delivering these UAVs to the Indian government. The deal was announced seven months back when PM Modi visited Washington in June 2023. This delay is primarily due to the involvement of the US Congress in the arms transfer process.

MEA official spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal, responding to a question on the issue, said, “This relates to the US side. They have their internal processes and we are respectful of that.”


Previous Discussions and Approvals

India has been in talks with the US for an acquisition of the said drones after Washington responded to New Delhi’s Letter of Request(LoR) for acquisition of the drones from US defence giant General Atomics.

Last year in November, US Secretary Lloyd Austin met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi, where the procurement was discussed extensively.

Rajnath Singh, who heads the Defence Acquisition Council, granted the acceptance of Necessity or initial approval for the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones from the US military under the foreign military sale route.


MQ-9 series of drones are known for their versatility, endurance, surveillance capabilities and precision in hitting targets; they have proved their competence in numerous operations.

Adding these crafts to the Indian arsenal would help augment the prowess of Indian Forces. Although making purchases to bolter our capabilities is a welcome step, there should be more focus on developing indigenous technologies that suit Indian needs and requirements.


Read more: Interim Budget-A Strategic Blueprint for Inclusive Growth


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