Indian Navy Inducted two U.S. Drone MQ-9B on Lease

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News Desk

Indian Navy has inducted two MQ-9B Sea Guardian unarmed drones procured from the U.S. on lease. In a sign of growing closeness between India and the United States amid conflict with China, the Indian Navy has inducted two Predator drones from an American firm on lease for carrying out surveillance in the Indian Ocean region and which can also be deployed along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh. The drones are flying in Indian colors and would be on lease with India for one year even as the three services are preparing the case for acquiring 18 more such drones from the US.

The American-origin drones have been inducted by the Navy under the emergency-procurement powers granted by the Defense Ministry in view of the India-China border conflict. The drones arrived in India in the second week of November and were inducted into flying operations on November 21 at Indian Navy base at INS Rajali[1]. The drones have already started flying operations and with an endurance capability of being in the air for over 30 hours.

At present India does operate some unarmed drones:

  • IAI Heron procured from Israel.
  • Rustom is being developed by Defence Research and Development Organization for the three services, Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force of the Indian Armed Forces.
  • Ghatak an autonomous stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization for the Indian Air Force.

Why did India lease these Drones?

This could give Indian Navy an opportunity to test the American drone. If they find it good enough to be used in the long run, then perhaps India will purchase the armed version of that drone as well. On the other hand, China has become a major exporter of armed drones, Pakistan is among its 11 customers. Chinese drone CAIG Wing Loong has got huge armed capabilities.

Photo-1: Chinese drone CAIG Wing Loong

There are different opinions also. Leasing of the two US predator Drones follows Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) accord signed between India and the United States on October 22, 2020. According to editor security magazine ‘Force’ Pravin Sawhney, the Americans will be able to control India’s strategic assets including cruise and ballistic missiles once like BECA agreements cumulatively come into force.

Photo-2: Pravin Sawhney, Editor Security Magazine Force

He said to Sputnik, “India is to sign the Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement with the US to use its geo-spatial maps for buying armed MQ-9B drones. The US can now theoretically control the command & control systems of our ballistic & cruise missiles with its cyber capability as part of sensor to shooter loops!”


[1] INS Rajali-An Indian naval air station located near Arakkonam, Ranipet district, Tamil Nadu in southern India. It operates under the Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy, and has the longest military runway in Asia.
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