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India set to strengthen defense capabilities with acquisition of MQ-9B predator drones | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

India’s government is poised to commence negotiations for the procurement of MQ-9B Predator drones from General Atomics, a US-based company. This significant development follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s recent visit to Washington DC, where a joint statement with President Joe Biden confirmed India’s acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones for its armed forces.

The estimated cost of the drones, projected to be below US$ 3 billion, is expected to be substantially lower than what other countries have paid for similar cutting-edge drones. As India gears up for negotiations, the country’s defence and security establishment anticipates further cost reductions, particularly if additional features are not sought.

The acquisition of these drones, armed with specialized sensors and offering unparalleled endurance, is poised to bolster India’s defence capabilities. The Indian Navy, in particular, is eager to enhance its surveillance and reduce dependency on existing assets, making this American deal a strategic and well-founded move.

Financial Express Online has consistently reported that the deal for these drones is below US$ 3 bn. However, the price negotiations have not yet started and are expected to be almost 27 percent lower than the price other countries have paid to the US for getting the world’s best drones.

“Once the two sides sit across the table to negotiate the price could be lower unless India seeks additional features. It has also been reported that the price negotiation is still a long way off as there are several other procedures to be followed before the stage of price negotiation comes,” a source explained.

So far from India only the “Acceptance of Necessity’’ (AoN) has been accorded on June 15 before PM Modi had left for the US by the Defence Acquisition Council headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh. The DAC approval came for world’s best armed ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capable 31 MQ9B Predator Drones from General Atomics through government to government and through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.

India will get two variants of MQ-9B

Although initially unarmed, these drones offer specialized sensors and hold immense potential for enhancing India’s defence prowess. The Indian Navy’s enthusiasm for acquiring HALE drones stems from the necessity for constant surveillance and reduced dependence on existing assets, such as the P8i anti-submarine and maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The vast expanse of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) necessitates continuous monitoring, making the Navy’s interest in the American deal well-founded. Despite the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) not having worked on a HALE drone, the Navy recognized the value of collaboration with the United States to acquire cutting-edge capabilities.

In a strategic move, the Navy leased two Sea Guardians in 2020 under emergency procurement, successfully completing 10,000 flight hours in support of Indian security missions. Notably, these drones have been deployed along both the western border with Pakistan and the northern border with China, depending on operational requirements.

China & Drones

Notably, while China has been developing its own drones and has also been exporting to countries in West Asia and Africa, the MQ-9B stands out as the premier choice in terms of technology, endurance, and payloads.

The Ministry of Defence recently issued an official statement that the indicative cost of the Predator drones as made by the US government is around US$ 3,072 million. This means that each drone is of US$ 99 million each and the UAE has recently paid around US$ 161 million each. The drones India is getting is of better configuration and is comparable to the UAE.

 How much will it cost India for getting 31 Drones?

Since India is going to buy 31 drones – 15 for the Indian Navy and 8 each for the Army and Air Force, the price is expected to come down further when it’s negotiated.

The US Forces paid US$ 69 each for sixteen drones – these drones were just “green aircraft” as there were no weapons, sensors or certifications. The cost adds up when weapons, censors or payloads are added.

India is expected to integrate its own missiles and radars on these drones which is expected to bring down the cost further.

Financial Express Online had reported earlier that the Air Force was one of the services to raise questions about the drones. However, following the Galwan Valley incident, the three services are onboard and have supported the decision to acquire these drones.

Transfer of Technology

The plan is for India to assemble a portion of the drones domestically, leveraging indigenous components, which is expected to drive down costs further. The collaboration with the United States also holds the potential for significant technology transfer, with India aiming to acquire approximately 15-20 percent of the drone’s avionics, sensors, radar processor units, software, and more.

With an endurance of over 35 hours, the MQ-9B drones can operate at high altitudes and carry external payloads of up to 2.1 tonnes. The plan is to get 11 drones off the shelf to meet the country’s immediate need and then the rest will be assembled in India with indigenous components on board.

The high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drones are capable of remaining airborne for over 35 hours and can carry four Hellfire missiles and around 450 kg of bombs. In 2020, the Indian Navy had taken on lease two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from General Atomics for a period of one year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean. The lease period has been extended subsequently.

In 2016, The Financial Express was the first to report about the request for Predator drones by the Army and Air Force. The navy was initially interested in purchasing 22 drones.

With a focus on various drone types, ranging from tactical surveillance to high-altitude armed and kamikaze drones, the Army has recognized the transformative impact of unmanned aerial systems. A notable shift occurred in late 2020 when the Army transferred the operational control of its UAV fleet to the aviation corps, signaling a change in perspective regarding the future of drones. The deployment of Israeli UAVs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) during the recent stand-off showcased their potential as force multipliers, providing enhanced situational awareness and reducing the need for soldiers to patrol hazardous areas.

Initially hesitant, the Indian Air Force (IAF) raised concerns about the cost and operability of the HALE drones in India’s densely contested airspace shared with China and Pakistan. However, with evolving strategic dynamics and the realization of the drones’ potential, the IAF joined the Navy and the Army in procuring these advanced platforms. The IAF expressed the need for a longer-range missile system, prompting further customization of the drones to meet their requirements.

Additionally, the IAF is undertaking Project Cheetah, a substantial contract aimed at upgrading the Heron drone fleet into armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) across all three services. This integrated approach demonstrates the collaborative nature of India’s armed forces and their commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technologies for enhanced defense capabilities.

A special team & story behind SeaGuardian

A special team which had India’s best unmanned crew which went across the globe to seek the best drones with the best airframe and sensor package on offer.  The team travelled across the globe meeting with companies which are into drone manufacturing and ended up identifying the US Company after interacting with the US AF and also RAF (Royal Air Force). At the end of a long and tedious process SeaGuardian for India was conceived. The Navy, Air Force and Army will get different variants of the MQ-9B. 

Why does the Indian Navy need these drones?

According to top navy officers, these drones can be synced with the P-8i long range maritime patrol aircraft and the MH-60R multi-role helicopters which are in operation.  They are the best in the world and can do Manned Unmanned Teaming (MuM-T) with P8i and could also enhance Indian Navy’s Underwater capacity and capabilities to search for any submarine etc in Indian Ocean Region. These drones can also work in tandem with the MH-60R helicopters and take interoperability with the Quad forces to the next level.

Since these drones are network centric, they will give the Indian Navy’s commander at sea more flexibility as well as lesser shooter timeline.

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