DAC gives go ahead for procurement of MQ-9B drones from US

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry on Thursday accorded its approval to procure 30 MQ-9B Predator drones from the US to crank up the surveillance apparatus of the armed forces, especially along the frontier with China, people familiar with the development said.

The decision came days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington.

It is expected that the mega procurement deal worth around USDĀ 3 billion would be announced following talks between Modi and US President Joe Biden at the White House next week.

The procurement proposal was cleared at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the people cited above said.

The hunter-killer Sea Guardian drones are being procured for the three services as they can carry out a variety of roles including maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare and over-the-horizon targeting among others. The sources said that the Navy is likely to get 14 droned while the Indian Air Force and the Army will get eight each.

The high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drones are capable of remaining airborne for over 35 hours and can carry four Hellfire missiles and around 450 kg of bombs. The MQ-9B has two variants – SkyGuardian and its sibling SeaGuardian.

In 2020, the Indian Navy had taken on lease two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from General Atomics for a period of one year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean. The lease period has been extended subsequently. The Indian Navy has been bolstering its surveillance mechanism to monitor growing Chinese activities including frequent forays by PLA warships in the Indian Ocean Region.