Indian Military to acquire 31 MQ-9B armed drones from the United States
Three tri-service intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance command centres will be established, one in the south and two in the north, with a focus on India's northern borders, particularly the one with China. India will purchase 31 high altitude long endurance (HALE) drones from the US in phases, according to people familiar with the matter, with the first batch of 10 drones being unarmed.
On June 15, a tri-service proposal to purchase 31 drones, including 15 MQ9B Sea Guardian and 16 Sky Guardian drones from the US, was authorised by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which is chaired by India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. While the Sky Guardian drones will be deployed to protect the land borders, the Sea Guardian drones will be in charge of the maritime domain’s awareness and surveillance. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US this week, the over $3 billion procurement through US foreign military sales, or the government-to-government method, will be approved.
While bilateral relations between India and the US are about to take an orbital leap, the first shipment of drones will only contain 10 units, with armaments and missiles to follow later. According to the reports, all drones will have nine hard points which will have the capability to carry missiles and laser-guided bombs. The Narendra Modi administration won't buy all the drones and weaponry off the shelf; instead, the agreement will include a localization component that will allow drones to be equipped with Indian-made munitions. As not every drone needs to be armed, HT finds that purchasing missiles and bombs for the drones will be the second step in the overall process. The individuals noted, preferring to remain anonymous, that it is also feasible that not all drones will be produced in the US.
From INS Rajali in Tamil Nadu, India leased two Sea Guardian drones from the company General Atomics, and the military has first-hand experience operating a HALE drone with a 40-hour endurance. The performance of rented drones, which offer real-time marine domain awareness from Southeast Asia to Africa, has pleased the Indian Navy. The 31 drones will not be dispersed equally and will all be operating under a tri-service command, according to the sources. Under the direction of the future theatre commanders and the permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, the three operational centres will establish mission-specific duties.