India Initiates Process To Purchase 31 ‘MQ-9B’ Killer Drones
India has officially started the process of buying 31 advanced MQ-9B Reaper drones from the United States ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US President Joe Biden.
These drones, also known as Predator-B drones, are designed for long-duration surveillance missions, armed with precision strike capabilities, and are considered superior to China’s armed drones.
The deal is estimated to be worth around $3.5 billion (₹29,098,300 crore) and includes 15 drones for the Navy and eight each for the Army and Air Force, along with associated ground control systems and equipment.
The drones will be assembled in India, and General Atomics, the drone manufacturer, will collaborate with Indian companies for some components.
The deal also includes technology transfer to support indigenous development of similar systems. They will also set up a maintenance facility in India to serve other countries like Australia and Japan.
India has issued a Letter of Request (LoR) to the US government, initiating the procurement process. The US government will respond with a Letter of Acceptance (LoA), including final costs and the necessary notification to the US Congress as part of its foreign military sales program. The contract will be finalized after approval from India’s Cabinet Committee on Security.
India aims to deploy the first 10 MQ-9B drones within one to two years of signing the contract, with the rest arriving in batches every six months.
These drones, equipped with missiles and smart bombs, will enhance India’s intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike capabilities in the Indian Ocean Region, as well as its borders with China and Pakistan. They will be stationed at three tri-Service command and control centers across India.
The MQ-9B deal is expected to help India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) develop its own indigenous armed high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drones capable of firing missiles and precision-guided munitions.
While India lags behind China in this field, it already employs a substantial number of Israeli-origin unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance and targeting.
This procurement is part of India’s efforts to modernize its defense capabilities and strengthen its position in the region.
The acquisition will involve technology transfer and support DRDO’s efforts to develop similar systems domestically.
The drones will serve multiple roles, including intelligence gathering, electronic warfare, and airborne early warning.