Indian Navy Leases Two MQ-9B SeaGuardian Maritime Drones

The Indian Navy has leased two MQ-9B SeaGuardian maritime unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from the United States, Hindustan Times reported.

The induction of the advanced U.S.-made drones will boost the Navy’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The leasing came amid the border row with the country’s northern neighbor China in the Ladakh theatre and increased Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The two MQ-9Bs are reportedly leased from American firm General Atomics, which manufactures the drones, for one year with an option for extension for another year. The UAVs arrived in India in early November and began undertaking missions last week though the navy has not publicized the lease deal. Under the lease agreement, American crew also arrived in India for maintenance, technical and training purposes.

The drones will operate out of INS Rajali, an Indian naval air station located near Arakkonam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. INS Rajali is already the home to Indian Navy’s fleet of U.S.-made Boeing P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

Capable of operating at an altitude of 40,000 feet, the MQ-9Bs have an endurance of 30 hours and a range of more than 5,000 nautical miles. The drones will allow the Navy to keep a close watch on the Indian Ocean Region at a time when it has stepped up surveillance and activities in the region to check China’s ambitions. The intelligence data from the two drones are being fed into the NCO (network-centric operations) network of the Navy.

The Indian Navy currently operates a mix of Israeli-built IAI Heron and Searcher UAVs for intelligence-gathering and surveillance missions.

MQ-9B SeaGuardian

MQ-9B SeaGuardian is a variant of MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) configured for maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The drones are developed by American company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI).

The SeaGuardian RPAS features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, a High-Definition – Full-Motion Video (HD FMV) sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite, augmented by automatic track correlation and anomaly-detection algorithms, enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles.

GA-ASI’s MQ-9B is revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing all-weather capability and compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO airworthiness standard for UAVs). These features, along with an operationally proven collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.

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