Discussions for the purchase of 30 Predator armed drones from US are at an advanced stage, as per the news reports. The total cost of the deal is approximately USD 3 billion. During President Trump’s administration this deal was signed between President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India agreed to purchase 30 drones for its three commands Army, Air Force and Navy. The process of procurement of these drones are in advance stage as per the government and media sources. India probably is the first NON-NATO country to receive these drones. Already Indian armed forces had leased 2 predator drones and using it for surveillance.
What is Predator/MQ9B Predator Drone?
The General Atomics MQ-9 B is an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying missiles to destroy targets. This particular UAV have several versions and upgrades. It can be controlled remotely. This is the first hunter-killer UAV, specially designed for long-endurance and high-altitude surveillance. It can hunt for targets and observe terrain by using its multiple sensors, including a thermographic camera in its front. Command is given from ground-based station and it takes 1.2 seconds to reach the drone via a satellite link. It can carry several types of weapons like laser-guided bomb, air-to-ground missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).
Highlights of Operational History
First combat mission was in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. Fired Hellfire missile against Afghanistan insurgents in the mountainous region of Oruzgan province.
In September 2009 these UAVs were deployed by the African Command of United States Air Force to the Seychelles islands for use in Indian Ocean anti-piracy patrols.
In 2009 one of these drones was lost in between combat operation in Afghanistan. The drone became out of control and flew toward Afghan border near Tajikistan. After that an F-15E Strike Eagle shot it down.
In October 2011, USAF started operating these drones for surveillance-only operations in Somalia from Arba Minch Airport in Ethiopia.
In 2012, these drones were deployed in Benghazi, Libya after a deadly attack on US ambassador.
· . Why these Drones are important for India?
Predator drones can strengthen India’s reconnaissance and unmanned aerial warfare capabilities. These drones can be used for surveillance and reconnaissance of India’s maritime and land borders with China and Pakistan. It can be used to carry out long-range precision air strikes in the north western borders of Jammu and Kashmir. It can be used to monitor borders and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir. It can carry out silent operations on terrorist camps in the areas of POK and Gilgit Baltistan. Already MQ-9 Sea Guardian drone is operational in Indian Navy. It helps us to enhance our maritime domain awareness and monitor the areas of large Indian ocean for security.