India’s plan to buy 31 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) from U.S.-based General Atomics appears to be finally moving forward.
In a joint statement issued on June 22, U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said they “welcomed India’s plans to procure General Atomics MQ-9B HALE UAVs.”
The MQ-9Bs SkyGuardian drones, which will be assembled in India, will enhance Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of India’s armed forces across domains. As part of this plan, General Atomics will also establish a Comprehensive Global MRO facility in India to support of India’s long-term goals to boost indigenous defense capabilities.
Of the 31 UAVs being bought by India, 15 will go to the Navy, while the Army and Air Force will each get eight units.
India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the deal on June 15. It is reportedly worth $3 billion.
A Letter of Request (LOR) from the Indian government has to be sent to Washington expressing its interest to buy the Predator drones through the FMS route from General Atomics. Once the LOR is received, a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from the U.S. Government will be sent to the Indian Government. It will go to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval, after which a formal contract will be signed.
MQ-9 can be disassembled and loaded into a single container for deployment, and it can be transported using aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules or larger platforms.
The Indian Navy had taken two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones on lease from General Atomics in 2020 for a period of one year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean. The lease period has been extended subsequently.