The government of India has greenlighted the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft, marking a leap in unmanned surveillance capabilities. 

The $4bn deal, approved by the US State Department, aims to fortify the US-Indian strategic relationship while enhancing India’s capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s notification to Congress sets the stage for India’s acquisition of military technology. The package includes MQ-9B Sky Guardian aircraft, Embedded Global Positioning and inertial Navigation Systems, Hellfire missiles, Laser Small Diameter Bombs, and an array of equipment.

Ushering in a new capability

This move aligns with India’s commitment to modernise its military and address current and future threats. The MQ-9B drones will play a role in unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols, securing sea lanes of operation. The acquisition underlines India’s dedication to national security, political stability, and regional economic progress.

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India’s Navy already acquired two of the MQ-9B high altitude long endurance UAVs in 2020 from General Atomics, according to GlobalData’s “India Defense Market 2023-2028” report. Following the competition of this contract, India will have 33 MQ-9B UAVs in its Navy.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, based in Poway, CA, is set to be the principal contractor for this endeavour.

Beyond borders

The MQ-9B acquisition is a military endeavour and a diplomatic milestone. The sale supports US foreign policy objectives, fostering a closer US-Indian alliance. The transfer of technology and cooperation in defence highlights the shared commitment to regional stability and peace.

The deal opens avenues for collaboration in personnel training, technological integration, and logistical support.

Taiwan boosted its air force capabilities in May 2023, through a $217.6m contract with General Atomics Aeronautical System, securing four MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs equipped for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The sole-source acquisition is part of Taiwan’s modernisation programme amid escalating threats from China.