The United States is set to equip India with the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Aircraft, a formidable arsenal featuring advanced surveillance and attack capabilities, including the deployment of Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs. Details of this significant defense transaction were communicated by the Biden Administration to the US Congress.
According to reports from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the proposed Foreign Military Sale to India entails the acquisition of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and associated equipment, estimated at a total cost of USD 3.99 billion. The sale includes 31 SkyGuardian drones manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, alongside a comprehensive suite of services and equipment.
Among the extensive inventory being provided to India are 161 Embedded Global Positioning & Inertial Navigation Systems (EGIs), 35 L3 Rio Grande Communications Intelligence Sensor Suites, 170 AGM-114R Hellfire Missiles, 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDB), and additional related components. The prices outlined are subject to further negotiations by the Indian Government.
The MQ-9B RPA is specifically tailored for Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) missions, encompassing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations, Target Acquisition, and Strike Missions. It boasts a modular design, facilitating easy integration of various payloads and munitions to cater to diverse mission requirements.
Key features of the SkyGuardian Aircraft include the MX-20HD Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) targeting system, Ground Control Station (GCS), and advanced weaponry such as the AGM-114R Hellfire missile and GBU-39B/B LSDB. The capabilities of these weapons systems encompass precise targeting, enhanced guidance and navigation, and the ability to engage a wide range of targets with remarkable accuracy.
Furthermore, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder enhances maritime patrol and Search and Rescue (SAR) capabilities by enabling tracking and identification of vessels over dedicated data links.
However, certain details regarding the defense equipment and technology involved in the sale remain classified due to their sensitive nature. The notification to Congress emphasized the importance of safeguarding classified information to prevent adversaries from developing countermeasures or similar capabilities.
Despite the classified aspects, the sale underscores the confidence of the US Government in India's ability to safeguard sensitive technology and aligns with broader foreign policy and national security objectives. This transaction represents a significant step in bolstering defense cooperation between the United States and India.
(With Agency Inputs)