India secures deal from US for 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian drones

General Atomics MQ-9 SkyGuardian
General Atomics

The Indian government has successfully secured a potential $3.99 billion deal for 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian armed drones from the United States.  

The approval for the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) was granted by the US State Department on February 1, 2024, with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notifying Congress of the development. 

The deal, negotiated with prime contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, takes in 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian drones, along with a variety of equipment, including 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDBs), sensors, and communication systems. 

The MQ-9B Sky Guardian is an advanced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for long-endurance, high-altitude missions. Developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the MQ-9B is an evolution of the earlier MQ-9 Reaper, featuring enhanced capabilities and modernized systems.  

With a wingspan of over 24 meters (79 feet) and the ability to stay airborne for more than 40 hours, the Sky Guardian is a versatile platform which can be used for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and precision strike missions. It is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors, including radar, cameras and communication systems, allowing it to operate in a variety of environments and provide real-time data. 

“This proposed sale will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation,” the State Department stated in its notification to Congress, hinting that the aircraft will mainly be used in maritime operations.  

India has been facing growing maritime security challenges in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, including piracy, trafficking, and unregulated fishing by Chinese fleets. 

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