India Approves Procurement of MQ-9B Armed Drones Ahead of PM Modi's Visit to the US
In preparation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to the United States, India has granted clearance for the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B armed drones from the US. The deal, worth over $3 billion, is expected to be formally announced during Modi's state visit to Washington next week. The decision was made by India's Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
The MQ-9B armed drones, manufactured by General Atomics, possess impressive capabilities. With an endurance of more than 27 hours and the ability to operate at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet, these drones are expected to significantly enhance India's surveillance capabilities. Of the 31 drones, 15 will be allocated to the navy, while the army and the air force will receive eight each.
The acquisition of these drones gained urgency following the military standoff between India and China in the Ladakh region. The increased need for surveillance along the disputed border prompted India to enhance its vigilance capabilities. The drones will play a crucial role in maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, over-the-horizon targeting, airborne early warning, and electronic warfare.
The approval from the defence ministry marks the initial step in the formal procurement process, which will now be subject to clearance by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by the prime minister. Additionally, negotiations on the final pricing of the drones will need to be concluded between the two countries.
The United States had previously approved the sale of drones to India more than two years ago. However, the discussions were often delayed due to India's emphasis on the "Make in India" initiative, which focuses on developing and manufacturing indigenous defense hardware. The recent visit of US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to New Delhi, as well as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's visit, aimed to strengthen defense industry cooperation between the two nations.
The announcement of the drone deal is anticipated to be a significant highlight of the discussions between Prime Minister Modi and US President Joe Biden during their meeting at the White House on June 22. Both sides are hopeful that these talks will pave the way for collaboration in other critical areas, including emerging technologies.
India's move to procure MQ-9B armed drones reflects its ongoing efforts to bolster its defense capabilities and reduce dependence on foreign suppliers. With the acquisition of these advanced drones, India aims to enhance its surveillance capabilities and effectively address security challenges in the region.