While the MQ-9B agreement seems close to being finalized, India has expressed dissatisfaction with the level of detail provided by the US Defense Department in its statement. The concern revolves around the specific information regarding the number of Hellfire missiles and guided bombs accompanying the 31 MQ-9 Sky Guardian drones.
The apprehension stems from the potential disclosure of India’s drone capabilities to its adversaries, particularly neighboring Pakistan. There are indications that Pakistan may have received a batch of 6-7 Bayraktar Akinci drones from Turkey, although no official announcement has been made. Reportedly, Pakistan is preparing these drones for deployment near Lahore, yet the details of the missiles and weapons on the Bayraktar drones remain undisclosed.
Surprisingly, Pakistan has not publicly acknowledged any deal with Turkey for the Bayraktar drones. This information became apparent through the uniform patches on the Bayraktar TB2 drones during an exercise.
In contrast, the US has announced its intention to provide India with the MQ-9B Predator drone, despite concerns related to the conspiracy to murder Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the US Department of Defense detailed the $3.99 billion deal for 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian aircraft, including 170 Hellfire missiles, 310 laser small diameter bombs, Global Positioning and Inertial Navigation System, and other equipment. The Defense Department has informed Congress about this deal.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US last year, discussions were held regarding the purchase of the MQ-9B Predator, the armed version of the Reaper. The US State Department communicated this information to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the company manufacturing MQ-9B drones.
According to the US State Department, the MQ-9B deal will strengthen the strategic relationship between India and America, contributing to peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and South Asia. Additionally, these drones are expected to play a crucial role in sea surveillance and addressing potential threats.
India’s need for 31 MQ-9B drones is driven by the necessity to monitor the Indian Ocean and the airspace adjacent to China-Pakistan. Allocation includes 15 drones (Sea-Guardian) for the Indian Navy, and 8 each for the Air Force and Army. The provision of Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs underscores the combat capabilities of the MQ-9B drones.