Missiles and big coverage area: How Predator drone will add to the firepower of Indian forces


The Indian drones would be equipped with both land and sea surveillance equipment, which they would be able to use in different terrains as per requirements (File photo)

Our Bureau
New Delhi

India secured the deal to procure Predator drones made by General Atomics, which was one of the major takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden state visit to the US last week. This mega pact that will allow American Navy ships to undertake major repairs at Indian shipyards.

President Biden and Prime Minister Modi welcomed India’s plans to procure General Atomics MQ-9B HALE UAVs. The MQ-9Bs, assembled in India, will enhance the 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, read US-India joint statement.

India will be acquiring as many as 31 Predator drones from the US soon, and that would be operated by the tri-services jointly. The Predators, also called the MQ-9 Reaper, can fly up to 36 hours at a stretch and can be used for focused monitoring of any specific point or area of interest.

But a controversy has sparked about the price of the drone.

Refuting all the speculations of alleged overpricing in the predator drones deal with General Atomics, Vice Admiral SN Ghormade (Retd) said that the process of acquisition is yet to start and the price has still not been decided.

He also called the deal very important for the armed forces adding that all the decisions will be taken in the national interest. Vice Admiral SN Ghormade (Retd), said, “At present, an Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) has been accorded by the Defense Acquisition Council, which was a joint case of Army, Navy and Air Force. And now the process of acquisition will start. Because, it’s a foreign military sales case, where a letter of request will be sent and then a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) would be sent … and agreement will be sent by the US government and there would be negotiations”.

“The price has not been decided. I think there are speculations about the price which should be kept aside. Whatever will be done, will be done in the national interest, and the government is working to create a capability for the defense,” he added.

Ghormade said that the predator drone deal is very important for the armed forces as it enhances its much-needed capabilities.

“It is a very important deal for the armed forces because it provides capability on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. This is an extremely important capability for the armed forces to provide security to the nation. Because it gives the surveillance capability, and we are able to cover a wide expanse of the Indian Ocean Region and also the borders with our northern and western neighbors,” he said.

The former Indian Navy Vice Chief also rebutted any speculation of the wrongdoings and said that what is being purchased is the minimum operational requirement of the defense forces.

Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar, on Wednesday, said the Predator drones provide a lot of capability to the armed forces and they are keen to acquire them. “Indian Navy has been operating these drones. They fall in the category of the HALE, (high altitude long endurance drones). So, we realized that these drones are needed for better surveillance and increased maritime domain awareness,” the Navy Chief said.

“So, we had taken two of these on lease from November 2020 onwards. And since then, we have been operating it,” he said in an interview. He said that the forces have understood the benefits and advantages it provides to them as it can keep large areas under coverage.

Explaining the capabilities of the drones in detail, the Navy chief said if you just look at the map here (says while pointing towards map), it’s a very large area, you have to keep almost to go as far as 2500 to 3000 miles to keep that area under surveillance for various requirements.

He said the drone helps to know who all are operating in the area of interest of the Indian Navy.

Indian defense forces are planning to integrate made-in-India missiles on Predator drones, which are being acquired from the US under a foreign military sales deal. Defense officials are in the process of identifying indigenously developed weapon systems which can be equipped on these drones when they arrive. “When indigenous weapons are made, how do we integrate them into this (Predator),” Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said in an interview with ANI on Wednesday.

The Predator is armed with air-to-ground missiles and other weapons along with big surveillance and intelligence payloads.

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