In a significant development preceding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming state visit to Washington, the Defence Ministry is poised to make a crucial decision regarding the procurement of Predator drones manufactured by the United States. Government sources have informed India Today that a meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 15, will determine the fate of the deal. The focal point of the discussion will be the MQ-9B SeaGuardian drone.
India has long expressed its keen interest in acquiring large armed drones from the United States. This recent development follows a momentous occasion on Tuesday, where Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor (NSA), and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan unveiled an ambitious roadmap for collaboration between India and the United States in high-technology domains. The areas of focus encompass semiconductors, next-generation telecommunication, artificial intelligence, and defense.
According to a report by Reuters, the Biden administration has been urging the Indian government to give the green light to the deal ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit. Sources suggest that the US State Department, Pentagon, and White House have requested India to demonstrate progress on the deal involving up to 30 armable MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones produced by General Atomics.
This deal, estimated to cost India over USD 3 billion, will bolster the country’s overall surveillance capabilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the Indian Ocean. The MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, renowned for their high-altitude long-endurance capabilities, come equipped with precision strike missiles capable of effectively neutralizing enemy targets.
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All You Need to Know about the MQ-9B SeaGuardian Drone:
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian is a maritime-focused drone that boasts a satellite-enabled over-the-horizon flight capability, allowing it to operate continuously for more than 30 hours in all weather conditions. As stated on the General Atomics website, this drone has the capability to safely integrate into civil airspace, facilitating joint operations between military forces and civil authorities to provide real-time situational awareness in the maritime domain, day or night.
The SeaGuardian is versatile and can be deployed in various operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, search and rescue missions, law enforcement activities, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, airborne mine countermeasures, long-range strategic intelligence, over-the-horizon targeting, and anti-submarine warfare.
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian has been operated by all four countries within the Quad grouping—the United States, India, Australia, and Japan. Presently, India is utilizing leased MQ-9Bs for intelligence-gathering purposes.
In a previous interview with PTI, Vivek Lall, CEO of General Atomics Global Corporation, emphasized that the MQ-9B would grant Indian military users an unmatched advantage, enabling them to achieve greater flying distances, longer endurance, and a broader range of mission capabilities compared to any other aircraft in its category. The SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian variants are equipped with onboard systems that provide full-motion video and detailed sensing capabilities, ensuring effective operations regardless of environmental conditions.
At present, India operates two predator drones on lease from an American company, which have proven instrumental in assisting the Navy’s surveillance efforts in the Indian Ocean region.