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‘THE PREDATOR’: INDIA’S ACQUISITION OF MQ-9B DRONE AND BEYOND…
The threat of drones, in conventional as well as non-conventional domains, has compelled nations to reconfigure their offensive and defensive plans. MQ-9B is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a predator drone, manufactured by defence technology company General Atomics
NEW DELHI: The history of war is full of instances where effective use of technology has been the dividing line between the victorious and vanquished. Revolutions in military warfare at various intervals have stimulated major shifts in tactics, strategy and employment of arms and equipment.
The employment of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in conventional conflicts like in Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan-Armenia), the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the unconventional global war on terror, have tilted the balance in favour of drones.
Where Did It All Begin
According to military historians, the first UAV called ‘Ruston Proctor Aerial Target’, was developed by the UK in 1916-17. Initially used as a surveillance platform, its potential for precision strikes was soon realised. US-based General Atomics first developed the MQ-1 Predator as a reconnaissance platform. By and by, it was modified into a strike drone by attaching a Hellfire missile payload. Ever since the expansion in drone technology has been mind-boggling.
India initiated the process to buy 31 armed MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs from General Atomics during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US. General Atomics will also establish a Comprehensive Global MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) facility in India to support the country’s long-term goals of indigenous production. The MQ-9Bs can loiter up to 50,000 ft, remain airborne for over 35 hours and carry four Hellfire missiles besides around 450 kg of other bombs.
The formal process to purchase it began with the Defence Acquisition Council on June 15, clearing the Acceptance of the Necessity of 31 MQ-9Bs (16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian) for the tri-services through the Foreign Military Sale route. The US government has suggested a total estimated ticket price of $3,072 million. Though there has been some political noise over its cost to the exchequer, the final price will be negotiated after regulatory clearance from the US government. Best NDA Academy Lucknow
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Why India Needs MQ-9Bs
Given India’s geopolitical position, active borders with Pakistan, the prevalence of terrorism, and the ongoing stand-offs with China, the country needs a suitable policy framework that includes a robust counter-drone component considering the increasing number of incidents along the international border. The affordability and utility of drones have made them a platform of choice even for non-state actors. Best NDA Academy Lucknow
India’s UAV requirements at present are mostly met from imports of the Heron I, the Searcher Mk II and the Harop loitering munition from Israel. They have been deployed to monitor activities along the volatile borders with China and Pakistan. Best NDA Academy Lucknow
Indigenisation So Far
India has a fairly wide basket of prototypes to indigenise production of UAVs but none has been integrated into the service so far. The prototypes include Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Imperial Eagle, Aeronautical Development Establishment Laboratory and CSIR’s National Aerospace Laboratories’ Golden Hawk, National Aerospace Laboratory’s Slybird and NAL/ADE’s Pushpak. HAL’s Combat Air Teaming System, too, is in the development phase. The DRDO is also working on the Abhyas and Lakshya target drones.
Autonomous underwater vehicles for anti-submarine warfare are another category of drones, for which the process of Indian acquisition began in March this year. Besides, the DRDO is working on developing Submarine Launched Unmanned Aerial Systems.
India’s quest for drones started in 1990 with a DRDO project to build the Nishant UAV. Four of them were built but the Indian Army was not satisfied with its performance. Later, a wheeled version of Nishant called ‘Panchi’, was developed but not inducted. Best NDA Academy Lucknow
The Indian army is in collaboration with the Drone Federation of India to develop a ‘Him Drone-a-thon’, which is a pan-India connection with all stakeholders, including the industry, academia, software developers and drone product manufacturers. It will be conducted in stages with quantifiable parameters (like altitude, weight, range, endurance etc) being progressively enhanced based on demonstrated capabilities. Best NDA Academy Lucknow
The Way Ahead
Drones introduced a dramatic transformation in warfare in the last decade of the 21st century. The threat of drones, in conventional as well as non-conventional domains, has compelled nations to reconfigure their offensive and defensive plans. Drones eliminate the need for pilots in the air or to put ground troops in danger of being killed or kidnapped. Best NDA Academy Lucknow
A tactical element to the technology was announced by Russia on March 1, 2018. It said it was developing a nuclear-armed underwater drone. Ever since there have been reports of the US and China joining the race in this sphere.
- An unmanned drone operated remotely by two pilots
- Flight duration: Can fly for up to 40 hours
- Over the Horizon SATCOM: Global satellite communications
- High Definition EO/IR: Full motion videoLynx Multi-Mode Radar: provides high-resolution photographic-quality imagery
- This high-performance system can capture images of the target in all types of weather like snow, rain, dust, and smog
- This model is also able to withstand severe environmental conditions
- Wingspan: 24 metre
- Payload capacity: Nine external hardpoints (8 wings and 1 centreline) can carry a maximum weight of 2155 kg
- Internal payloads: 363 kg
Other Important Feature
- Detect and Avoid System Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
- Electronic WarfareOver-the-Horizon Targeting
- Long-Range Strategic ISR [Best NDA Academy Lucknow]
- Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief
- Search and RescueLaw Enforcement
- Border Enforcement [Best NDA Academy Lucknow]
- Another multi-domain remotely piloted aircraft system is the Sea GuardianThis model is the maritime variant of Sky Guardian
- Sonobuoy monitoring system: 4 wingspans stations that can carry sonobuoy dispenser podsTracking: Can identify, detect and track subsurface targets
- Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW)
- Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)HA/DR – Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster ReliefSearch and Rescue [Best NDA Academy Lucknow]