The Indian Navy has inducted two MQ-9B Sea Guardian unarmed drones procured from the U.S. on lease, two defence sources said on Wednesday.
“The drones are on lease for one year. All planning, execution and operations will be with the Indian Navy. The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) will play a support role for maintenance as laid down in the agreement,” one defence source said. The drones arrived in India mid-November.
The recently released Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 has introduced an option for leasing military platforms.
As part its force restructuring to offset budgetary constraints, the Navy has been looking to induct more unmanned solutions, both aerial and underwater. As part of this, the requirement of additional P-8I maritime patrol aircraft has been cut down from 10 to six and was to be offset by procurement of long endurance drones.
A tri-service proposal to procure 10 Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) for each Service from the U.S., including armed drones has been in the pipeline for sometime but has been delayed due to budgetary considerations.
Also read: Services finalising requirements for armed drones from the U.S.
Last year, the Navy asked General Atomics for details of the Sea Guardian, following which company officials made detailed presentations on its capabilities.
The Guardian, which is the maritime variant of the Predator MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), has a maximum endurance of 40 hours and a maximum flying altitude of 40,000 feet. It has a 3600 maritime surveillance radar and an optional multimode maritime surface search radar.
According to the company’s data sheet, the drone can “perform over-the-horizon long-endurance, medium-altitude Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.”
At the 2+2 dialogue with the U.S. last month, India signed the last foundational agreement Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), which simplifies such high- technology cooperation.
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