Context: The Prime Minister’s visit to the US has set the stage for the acquisition of 31 of these armed UAVs, 15 SeaGuardians for the Indian Navy and 16 SkyGuardians — eight each for the Indian Army and Air Force.
The MQ9Bs, which will be assembled in India. As part of this plan, General Atomics will also establish a Comprehensive Global Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in India in support of India’s long-term goals to boost indigenous defence capabilities.
- It is an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations.
- It is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.
- It is a larger, heavier, more capable aircraft than the earlier General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and can be controlled by the same ground systems.
- It has been developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF).
- It is a variant of the MQ-9 Reaper.
- It has two variants the Sky Guardian and the Sea Guardian, its maritime variant.
- It is designed to fly over the horizon via satellite for up to 40 hours, depending on configuration, in all types of weather, and safely integrate into civil airspace.
- The MQ-9 “Reaper” is a significant technological leap from the original RQ1/MQ1Predator that heralded the arrival of long-endurance armed drones at the end of the twentieth century. Armed with AGM114 Hellfire missiles.
- The Reaper is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons, it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.
- Enhance Capability of Armed Forces: These drones will enhance the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of India’s armed forces across domains.
- Lower Operational Costs: The MQ9B can provide roughly 80% of the capability of a large human-flown maritime patrol aircraft at about 20% of its cost per hour. That makes it much more economical for navies to, for example, send out SeaGuardians to clear big volumes of air or sea and then, if anything of interest is discovered, vector in a human-crewed aircraft to save it the time, cost, and wear that it otherwise might have expended.
- Reduce Human Fatigue: This is the primary reason the Indian Navy is keen on these UAVs as it significantly reduces the wear and tear on manned aircraft, its fleet of 12 P8I long range maritime patrol aircraft, as well as reduce crew fatigue in keeping an eye over the wide expanse of the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.
- Provides Round-the-clock Surveillance: For the Army and Air Force, the MQ9Bs can provide round-the-clock surveillance looking far beyond the borders, for instance on the movement of Chinese military buildup and troop movement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and deep inside.
- Integration with existing platforms: It also seamlessly integrates with other U.S.origin platforms that India operates, the P8Is, AH64 Apache attack helicopters, MH60R multirole helicopters among others expanding MQ9B’s multidomain mission set.
About MQ-9B SkyGuardianIt is the next generation of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), delivering persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) around the globe.About MQ-9B Sea GuardianIt is the maritime-focused sibling of the revolutionary SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS).It not only integrates the most advanced maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, but it is also the first RPAS in its class to enable real-time search and patrol above and below the ocean’s surface.Its configuration can include a 360-degree surface-search maritime radar, automatic identification system, sonobuoy monitoring system, and sonobuoy dispensers for persistent anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions.