The Indian Navy is preparing to finalize a deal to purchase 10 to 12 MQ-9 Predator-B (Reaper) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles built by U.S. defense contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
India’s Defense Acquisition Council is planning to meet Tuesday to approve the drone purchase decision, India’s Times Now News reported.
MQ-9 Predator B is a combat-proven platform operated by various nations especially the US and its allies of NATO nations like the UK, Italy, and France. The Indian Navy chose a proposed maritime variant of MQ-9B Skyguardian called “SeaGuardian.”
The potential purchase plans come just weeks after the Indian Air Force received their first French-made Rafale fighter jets and amid efforts by the Indian armed forces to expand aerial capabilities.
The Indian armed forces have increasingly favored unmanned vehicles and along with the finalization of the maritime surveillance drone purchase for the Indian Navy, India is expecting even more new deals to purchase combat drones.
The SeaGuardian could provide the Indian Navy with advanced surveillance capability over the seas with minimally manned missions over key international waters.
According to a General Atomics datasheet, SeaGuardian drones will be fitted with a Lynx multi-mode radar under its belly that provides wide-area intelligence and surveillance with an Automatic Identification System (AIS).
The SeaGuardian is also capable of enduing a maximum of 35 hours of mission time and has a more than 40,000 ft operational ability. The drone also has the same advanced features seen on the SkyGuardian, including a De/Anti-Icing System, a Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), Automatic Take-Off & Land and High Definition EO/IR Full Motion Video sensor. The drone also includes a fully redesigned and modernized integrated ground control station with four crew stations.
The potential new purchases also come after tensions on the Indo-China border, in which a deadly brawl broke out between Indian and Chinese troops. India has been trying to be more active on all three fronts of its national boundaries with an added focus on oceanic routes; particularly through the Malacca strait and the Andaman Islands. India’s naval forces hope to increase their ability with the addition of Sea Guardian maritime surveillance drones.