The Indian government recently cleared a deal with the United States for the purchase of 22 MQ-9 Guardian surveillance drones. This deal, initiated last year and officially cleared in June, is worth an estimated 2 billion US Dollars.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who met with US President Donald Trump on June the 26th, is apparently interested in the Guardian drones for use in reconnoitring the Indian Ocean, amid joint US-Indian concerns about China’s military presence in those waters.
The MQ-9, manufactured by General Atomics, has a range of 1800 kilometres, and the capability to stay in the air for thirty hours in surveillance configuration. The specific variant of the MQ-9 being purchased by the Indian government is the Guardian-a maritime surveillance model of the Reaper equipped with radar custom-made for usage at sea and advanced weather avoidance systems-and it is possible that India will look to test these new drones in one of the annual joint Indo-American Malabar naval exercises.
India has also cleared a $400 million defence deal with Israel that, among other things, includes the purchase of ten Israel Aerospace Industries Eitan multi purpose drones. Said drones are capable of carrying a 5000-kilogram payload, and would likely be utilised for combat or surveillance operations.
These deals mark a decided interest in UAS usage on the part of the Indian government. It seems that with the recent growth in the drone market in India and the more widespread use of UAS for military applications worldwide, the Indian government is looking to move with the times and modernise their air force somewhat.