India To Buy Highly-Weaponised MQ-9B Sky Guardian Drone From US Amid Border Tensions With China

India To Buy Highly-Weaponised MQ-9B Sky Guardian Drone From US Amid Border Tensions With ChinaUS-made MQ-9B Sky Guardian drone (Picture: Wikipedia)

India is planning to procure the weaponised MQ-9B Sky Guardian drone from the United States (US) as it looks to upgrade its existing Israeli Heron fleet and enhance its satellite communication capability and range.

The decision to shift from the 22 reconnaissance and surveillance Sea Guardian drones to the well-weaponised MQ-9B Sky Guardian has come in the midst of long-going border face-off with China in Easter Ladakh, Hindustan Times reported.

The officials from the tri-services, as per credible government officials cited in the report, decided that the forces should choose an armed drone system over the Sea Guardian drones that only provide surveillance capabilities. The deal to procure 22 surveillance drones was approved by the US administration in 2017.

“We are in negotiations with the Trump administration, which is willing to provide India with the latest armed drone technology. In this, it is the prohibitive cost of the system that is a hurdle, not the Trump administration,” said a South Block official quoted by HT, requesting anonymity.

The MQ-9B drones are manufactured by defence-maker General Atomics and have a a 40-hour endurance with a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet. The drone can also carry a weapon payload of over 2.5 tonne including air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided bombs, according to the report.

Indian administration has felt the need to upgrade its drone and surveillance strength in order to tackle China and its highly-advanced unmanned devices. The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed a large number of drone to keep an eye on Indian forces' movements.