India’s decision to acquire the MQ-9BC Guardian drone is set to become a nightmare for China and Pakistan. The acquisition of these 31 U.S. made drones has been approved by India’s defense ministers and is expected to cost slightly over $3 billion.
The use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles has revolutionized the world of surveillance and warfare. In recent years, drones have been increasingly used to monitor maritime activities and detect potential threats. India, in particular, is now taking a step forward with the acquisition of MQ-9B Guardian drones for its naval forces.
The recent drone deal between the US and India has raised many questions about its potential implications for both countries. While the deal is expected to create jobs in the US, it is also believed to be beneficial for the Byron Administration ahead of the 2024 presidential election. However, the most critical question is whether this deal will involve the transfer of technology that will help India develop homemade drones. That needs to be clarified, but the approval from the defense Ministry and the clearance from PM Modi’s cabinet is the next step.
Long Overdue Deal
The deal to acquire the MQ-9BC Guardian drone has been in the works since 2021. However, bureaucratic hurdles prevented the agreement from being concluded until Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official state visit to the U.S. was scheduled. The Joe Biden Administration pushed to finalize the deal during the PM’s visit.
The Special Qualities of the MQ-9BC Guardian Drone
The MQ-9BC Guardian drone is a maritime-focused drone developed by General Atomics. The drone has been designed to fly Over the Horizon by satellite for over 30 hours in all types of weather conditions. It also safely integrates into civil airspace, allowing for real-time situation awareness, day or night. These qualities make the MQ-9BC Guardian the perfect drone for India’s defense.
Why India Needs the MQ-9BC Guardian Drone
India already has two sea Guardian drone variants that were leased in 2020 and extended to 2024. However, the MQ-9BC Guardian drone is maritime-focused and designed to deliver real-time military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in the high seas. This is crucial for India as it attempts to protect its coastline and territorial waters from potential threats.
China and Pakistan’s Nightmare
The acquisition of the MQ-9BC Guardian drone by India is a significant concern for China and Pakistan. The drone’s capabilities enable India to monitor Chinese and Pakistani naval activities, and this will make it exceedingly difficult for both countries to operate in the Indian Ocean with any element of surprise.
MQ-9B Guardian Drones
The MQ-9B Guardian is a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. This drone has a wingspan of 24 meters and a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet. It can fly non-stop for up to 27 hours and can be equipped with a range of payloads such as sensors and weapons.
Use of MQ-9B Guardian Drones
The MQ-9B Guardian drones have several applications in maritime operations. Apart from anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, these drones can be useful in providing assistance during natural disasters, search and rescue missions, and border security. Following the 2020 India-China skirmishes, India needed unmanned aircraft to monitor Chinese warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean. The MQ-9B Guardian drones can be highly instrumental in this regard.
Importance of MQ-9B Guardian Drones
The drones provide several benefits to India in terms of national security. With an improved surveillance capability, India can better protect its borders and respond swiftly to maritime threats. The MQ-9B Guardian drones can also enable India to counter China’s growing presence in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly the Indian Ocean. The drones can effectively monitor the movements of Chinese and Pakistani forces at the border areas.
The MQ-9B Guardian drone deal with the United States was delayed due to several factors such as production costs and India’s desire to manufacture indigenous unmanned aerial vehicles. However, the US has been actively deepening its defense ties with India to counter China’s dominance in Asia. The US has also offered to collaborate with India on military technology to strengthen its defense capabilities.
The Potential Benefits for India
The drone deal with the US has the potential to bring several benefits to India. The main advantage is the transfer of technology that could enable India to develop its homemade drones in the future. This would reduce India’s reliance on foreign technology and increase its self-sufficiency. Moreover, the drones could be used in various sectors, including agriculture, disaster management, defense, and surveillance. Additionally, the deal could strengthen the US-India strategic partnership, considering the two countries’ shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Concerns Regarding the Transfer of Technology
The main concern regarding the drone deal is whether the US will transfer hi-tech technology that could potentially compromise its national security. It is important to note that the US has strict laws and regulations in place regarding the transfer of such technology to foreign countries. Therefore, any technology transfer will likely go through a rigorous approval process involving several government agencies. Moreover, the transfer of technology could also impact US companies that specialize in drone technology, potentially leading to a loss of market share.
The Political Ramifications of the Deal
The drone deal with the US could have significant political ramifications for India. Firstly, it could be a massive boost for PM Modi and his government, especially with the upcoming state and federal elections. The deal reflects India’s growing importance on the global stage and the US’s willingness to support India’s rise. However, the deal could also face opposition, mainly from left-leaning parties that are skeptical of US partnerships. Notably, protests have already erupted in several parts of the country, calling for the government to reject the deal.
The MQ-9BC Guardian drone acquisition by India is a significant victory for the country’s defense forces. The drone’s maritime-focused capabilities provide India with a significant strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean. The drone’s introduction into India’s defense infrastructure is sure to make China and Pakistan uneasy, and they will have to rethink their strategies in the region.
The acquisition of MQ-9B Guardian drones marks an important milestone for India’s naval forces. With advanced surveillance and capabilities, these drones will enhance India’s security and expand its role in the region’s maritime domain. The US-India defense partnership is crucial in countering China’s influence in Asia, and the MQ-9B Guardian drones are a significant contribution towards this objective.
The drone deal between the US and India could have far-reaching implications for both nations. While the deal could bring several benefits to India, including the transfer of technology, it also raises concerns regarding national security and loss of market share for US companies. Furthermore, the deal could have significant political ramifications in India, with supporters hailing it as a sign of growing US-India collaboration and critics denouncing it as a move away from India’s traditional non-alignment policy. Overall, the US-India drone deal is a development worth monitoring in the coming months to understand its impact on the regional and global strategic landscape.