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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Navy Nears Deal: 31 Predator Drones from US on Horizon

The acquisition of these cutting-edge drones is poised to significantly enhance India's surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, particularly in the maritime domain.

In a landmark decision aimed at fortifying India’s maritime prowess, Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar announced the approval of a pivotal agreement to acquire 31 Predator drones from the United States. The clearance, granted by the Defence Acquisition Council, paves the way for the contract signing in the near future.

Expressing confidence in the progress of the deal, Admiral Kumar stated, “We are the lead servers who are steering it. The letter of request has been cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council and the letter of request has gone to the US government. They have given us a draft letter of availability. Now the final one will come. It has to be placed before the (the US) Congressional committee thereafter it will come.”

The acquisition of these cutting-edge drones is poised to significantly enhance India’s surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, particularly in the maritime domain. Valued at approximately USD 4 billion, the contract encompasses provisions for weaponry and essential equipment for operational deployment.

While the procurement process entails a lead time for manufacturing and delivery, the first aircraft is expected to be operational within an estimated 36 months. Admiral Kumar stressed the strategic importance of this acquisition in advancing India’s national security interests, especially in maritime security.

In tandem with the acquisition of Predator drones, the Indian Navy is actively fostering regional maritime cooperation. The upcoming MILAN 2024 exercise, scheduled from February 19 to 27 in Visakhapatnam, will witness the participation of over 50 countries. This exercise underscores India’s commitment to ensuring safe and secure maritime environments through collaboration with international partners.

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Moreover, the Eastern Naval Command recently welcomed Corvette 20 of the Vietnam People’s Navy and USS Halsey (DDG-97) of the United States Navy for the MILAN 2024 exercise, demonstrating growing cooperation and camaraderie among nations in the Indo-Pacific region.

The MQ-9B Predator drone, a variant of the MQ-9 Reaper developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV designed for extended flight durations at altitudes exceeding 40,000 feet. With a maximum endurance of 40 hours, it provides a reliable platform for prolonged surveillance missions.

Equipped with strike missiles, the MQ-9B Predator is capable of engaging and eliminating enemy targets with high precision, enhancing its effectiveness in various roles, including land and maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, and expeditionary missions.

With its two variants, SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian, the MQ-9B drone has been operational with the Indian Navy since 2020. Its automatic take-off and landing capabilities, coupled with its integration into civil airspace, make it a versatile asset for joint forces and civil authorities, offering real-time situational awareness in the maritime domain.

The procurement of 31 Predator drones by the Indian Navy signifies a significant leap forward in augmenting India’s maritime capabilities. This acquisition, alongside the ongoing MILAN 2024 exercise, underscores India’s steadfast commitment to promoting regional maritime security and cooperation.

Pratham Gurung
Pratham Gurung
An avid movie buff who aspires to make it into the armed forces. Always had a knack for words so reading and writing are my favourite hobbies. Can debate on anything but not everything.
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