Biden administration notifies US Congress of sale of 31 MQ-9B Predator drones to India

Team India Sentinels Friday 2nd of February 2024 09:12 PM

A SeaGuardian drone. (Photo: General Atomics) 

New Delhi: United States President Joe Biden’s administration has formally notified the US Congress of its intention to sell 31 MQ-9B Predator long-endurance drones to India. This move comes after the megadeal was initially announced during the prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, as India Sentinels had reported in June last year.

The Indian Navy will get 15 SeaGuardian version of the drones while the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force will get eight each of the Reaper and SkyGuardian versions of the armed drones respectively. The drones are manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

According to reports, the Biden administration notified the US Congress on Thursday, and a formal letter of approval will be dispatched to India approximately 30 days after the Congress grants its consent to the procurement.

The estimated cost of this acquisition stands at $3.99 billion. While the initial cost is set at $3.99 billion, further price negotiations will occur once India receives the formal letter of approval (LoA).

The proposed sale aligns with the US-Indian strategic relationship and aims to enhance the security of a major defence partner. The US’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency emphasized India’s role as an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.

The MQ-9B drones will significantly augment India’s surveillance, reconnaissance, and striking capabilities. Their deployment will enable unmanned patrols in critical sea lanes of operation, contributing to maritime security and situational awareness.

The drones can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles or four Hellfire missiles and two 500-pound (230-kilogram) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. It can also carry the 500-pound GBU-38 joint direct-attack munition (JDAM).

So far, apart from the US, only Nato countries and close US allies have the highly advanced drone. For India, a deal of this kind has been made possible after New Delhi signed the Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA) with Washington DC, in 2018 and 2020 respectively.

However, the DSCA clarified that this sale will not disrupt the basic military balance in the region.


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