India has decided to procure 30 armed MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones from the US in the wake of the protracted border standoff with China. The armed drones could be a game-changer for New Delhi and help it cement its position as a dominant power in South Asia.
New Delhi has decided to ink a $3 billion deal with Washington, which will see the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Army, and the Navy acquire 10 General Atomic MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones each.
According to earlier reports, the deal for the 30 SkyGuardian/ SeaGuardian drones was on the cards under the Trump administration last year. However, India decided not to pursue it owing to the high-cost factor.
Instead, India decided to lease two unarmed Sea Guardian drones for the Indian Navy. The new deal will now serve as a big boost for the Indian military.
The proposed deal is yet another sign of a flourishing relationship between New Delhi and Washington and their joint effort to counter the Chinese expansionist policy across several regions.
China had been involved in a border row with India before the two sides decided to disengage last month. It had also locked horns with the US in the disputed South China Sea region.
India and the US are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD which seeks to counter China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region, which Washington calls Indo-Pacific.
In October last year, India and the US announced the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) on geospatial intelligence sharing.
This was believed to have paved the way for India to lease two SeaGuardian drones, which was followed by the US government approving India’s purchase of $90 million in hardware and services for its fleet of C130-J Super Hercules military transport aircraft.
Now, if the proposed deal with the US for the Sea Guardians goes through, the drones could help enhance India’s military strength to quite a considerable extent.
Developed by American defense firm General Atomics, the MQ-9 Sea Guardian is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can be remotely-controlled or fly autonomously.
The drone, which is the maritime variant of the Predator MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), can fly for 40 hours and has a maximum flying altitude of 40,000 feet. It can fly at a maximum speed of 210 KTAS, has 360-degree maritime surveillance radar, and an optional multimode maritime surface-search radar.
According to reports, the drone is powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10 Turboprop with a payload capacity of 2177 kg, and it can produce a total power of 45 kVA, which will provide India with a proper and powerful drone option.
In addition, it possesses GA-ASI Lynx multi-mode radar and a de-ice/anti-ice system that helps it sustain extreme flying conditions. This means that the drone can be easily deployed in high-altitude regions like Ladakh.
According to General Atomics, the drone can “perform over-the-horizon long-endurance, medium-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.”
The SeaGuardian drones will also help India to detect enemy submarines loitering in its waters. The UAVs can be sent to high-risk areas where sending a manned fighter jet may prove extremely dangerous.
For India, the SeaGuardian drones will be vital as they can be fitted with anti-missile and radar components, making sure that they are ready for any military operation.