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HomeDefenceIndian Navy inducts two American drones on lease, could add more later

Indian Navy inducts two American drones on lease, could add more later

The two drones, flying with Indian Navy logo, are under the full operational control of the force and it will have exclusive access to all the information that the drone will capture.

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New Delhi: In a first, India has inducted two American drones — Sea Guardian, unarmed version of the deadly Predator series — into the Navy on lease under the emergency procurement in the backdrop of the tensions with China in Ladakh, ThePrint has learnt.

Even though the drones, MQ-9 Guardian/Predator-B, have been leased from an American firm, General Atomics, for a year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region, it could also be used in Ladakh, top defence sources said.

Sources told ThePrint the two drones, flying with Indian Navy logo, are under the full operational control of the force and it will have exclusive access to all the information that the drone will capture.

They added the only role of the American firm is to ensure availability of the two drones based on the contract signed.

This means that the Sea Guardians will be flown by Indian Navy personnel and all data acquired by the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will be the sole property of India.

The team from the US firm, which is currently in India as part of the deal, will only be doing the maintenance work for the two machines.

“The two drones are the unarmed versions and have been inducted into flying operations on 21 November at Indian Navy base at INS Rajali. The drones arrived in India earlier this month,” a senior officer in the know said.

This is the first defence system that has been taken on lease under the new Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 introduced this year.

The only other defence equipment on lease is the Chakra nuclear submarine from Russia.

Also read: Drones won the war for Azerbaijan. India must spend military modernisation money wisely

Drones have endurance of flying for over 30 hours

Asked if more drones could be brought on lease, a source said: “It all depends on the experience of these two drones. We are right now going to operate these two.”

Sources said the two UAVs, which have an endurance of flying for over 30 hours, have already been operationally deployed in the Indian Ocean. They also said the two drones will be flown extensively.

“The long endurance of the drones gives us a huge jump in our ability to track various things. We have been flying the P8I aircraft. These drones will now supplement the work done by the American aircraft and much more too,” a second source said.

Drone purchase from US

The Indian defence establishment is currently divided on the drone purchase from the US.

While earlier India was eyeing both Sea Guardians for the Navy and the armed Predator B for attack options, there is a growing feeling that both surveillance and attack can be done by the same drone only.

This is because of the prohibitive price involving the American drones. Earlier, 22 Sea Guardians were being priced at over $2 billion. The number for Sea Guardians was eventually brought down to just 12.

The US had in 2018 agreed to supply India the Sea Guardians, but the high cost meant that the process had slowed down.

Also read: China has become a major exporter of armed drones, Pakistan is among its 11 customers


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  1. TS Darbari – Rising manpower cost and changing nature of modern warfare need prioritization and restructuring of the armed forces. The defence budget of Indian armed forces has increased by the factor of 2 from 2009-10 to 2018-19, but the pension budget for the same period of time has increased by a factor of 15. In September 2019, the government finalizes to spend $130 billion in 5 to 7 years to modernize the armed forces. The plan includes the acquisition of a range of weapon includes warship, missile, drone, fighter jet, surveillance equipment, rifle and creating architecture for artificial intelligence. Highly effective weapon not only improve the capability of the force but multiple the morale of the soldiers to a towering height. A sophisticated protective gear assures the man in uniform that he can easily overcome small wear and tear and give his best to the role assigned with utmost confidence. #TS_Darbari #Ts_Darbari_Blog #TS_Darbari_News #Ts_Darbari_Views #Ts_Darbari_Blogger #TS_Darbari_Comments #Ts_Darbari_Opinion #About_TS_Darbari #TS_Darbari_Articles #Politics #Views #Comments
    Mr. TS Darbari is a top management professional, with several years of rich & diversified experience in Corporate Strategy, New Business Development, Sales & Marketing, Commercial Operations, Project Management, Financial Management and Strategic Alliances’.

  2. DRDO should focus on the production of 5th generation deadly drone for the purpose of survilence and morden warfare under make in India project.

  3. Our defence procurement policies and choice of equipment is leading us into a deep abyss. A very effective attack drone designed in
    Turkey costs some USD 5 million and is making news after the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But this unarmed Predator drone from USA costs USD 100 million each ! Almost as expensive as Rafale. That is surely a rip off.

    Design and manufacture of our own indigenous attack and surveillance drones must be a top national priority , since we are far behind even nations like Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, Azerbaijan etc who have somehow got hold of such weapons.

  4. It is hard to understand why India is acquiring “unmanned” drones. What is the point? Why not get armed drones and use it both for surveillance and warfare? With China banging on India’s doors does it make any sense to buy expensive unarmed drones? Is India following Gandhi-Nehru policy in dealing with its armed neighbors? I wonder whether Indians who decides of these defense items are actually stupid or simply crooked.

    • In going for bimodal version, we have to draw compromise between arms and surveillance equipment, as against pure armed version or purr surveillance version.

      Our Staff requirements are over optimistic and there’s always reluctance to rationalise it.

  5. That a healthy debate……… to buy two version of the same hardware when one can do both the jobs. The arms merchants usually wish to sell you both because it helps in his sales pitch.

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