The Indian military is likely to procure US-made 10 MQ-9 Predator-B drones days after reports of the acquisition of Heron TP UAVs on lease from Israel. The move comes amid a protracted border standoff between India and China in the Ladakh region.
The Ministry of Defence has been approached by the Indian Navy for the acquisition of the American MQ-9 drones, Hindustan Times reported.
In November 2020, The Eurasian Times had reported that two MQ- 9B Sea Guardian UAVs ( a variant of Predator B) had been leased by the navy. They were deployed in the Indian Ocean Region to boost the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance abilities of the service.
The report had also mentioned the possibility of the acquisition of 18 more such drones from the US in the future.
It is learned that the navy is satisfied with the performance of the US drones, thereby pushing for its speedy acquisition.
The Predator-B drones will be procured through the US Foreign Military Sales route under a government-to-government agreement.
It is expected that 10 MQ-9 Predator-B drones equipped with guided bombs and Hell-Fire missiles will be procured each for the Indian Navy, Army, and the Air Force.
The MQ-9 Drone
Manufactured by General Atomics, the MQ-9 Reaper Hunter/Killer UAV has an operational ceiling of 50,000 ft, an internal payload of 800 lb and its external payload exceeds 3,000 lb.
Often called the “Predator-B,” this was the first hunter-killer UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle), meaning that it can autonomously detect and destroy targets.
The Predator-B is a battle-tested drone and has seen intense action in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Mali, Yemen, Pakistan.
The drone can carry up to four Hellfire II anti-armor missiles and two laser-guided bombs ( GBU-12 or EGBU- 12) and 500 lb GBU-38 JDAM (joint direct attack munition).
The usual configuration may include four aircraft, one ground control system, and one Trojan Spirit II data distribution system. This unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) is 27ft long with a wingspan of 49 ft. Operating at an altitude of 25,000 ft, it has a range of 400 nm.
Chinese Wing Loong II UAV
India’s arch-rival China uses the Wing Loong II drone. It has been developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI), a division of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
The first test flight was conducted in 2009. Its primary aim is to boost the surveillance and aerial reconnaissance abilities of the Chinese army. China’s ‘iron brother’ Pakistan also uses the same UAV.
Wing Loong II is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV. The specifics of the drone as mentioned in Airforce technology include a length of 9.05m, a wingspan of 14m, and a height of 2.77m. The maximum take-off weight of the drone is 1,100 kg and it can further carry loads of 200 kg on external stores.