IN NEWS: India is likely to sign a deal with the U.S. for 31 MQ-9B drones by February 2024.

MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) deal

  • The deal for 31 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with the U.S. is expected to be concluded by February 2024, and deliveries will begin in February 2027, three years from the signing of the contract.
  • The UAV maker General Atomics (GA) is scheduled to establish a global maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility in India. But its location has not yet been finalized, the source said, adding that it could likely be Bengaluru.
  • In June, the Defence Ministry cleared the procurement of 31 MQ-9B UAVs from GA, including 15 Sea Guardians for the Navy and eight Sky Guardians each for the Army and the Air Force, at an estimated cost of $3,072 million through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.

The MQ-9B has the following specifications:

  • Speed of 240 KTAS, or approximately 299 miles per hour
  • Altitude of approximately 50,000 feet
  • Can remain airborne for over 35 hours
  • Can carry four Hellfire missiles and around 450 kg of other bombs.

The MQ-9B has the following capabilities:

  • Taking out enemy targets with high accuracy
  • Conducting maritime ISR operations, including:
    • Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
    • Search and rescue
    • Law enforcement
    • Anti-surface warfare
    • Anti-submarine warfare
    • Airborne mine countermeasures
    • Long-range strategic ISR
    • Over-the-horizon targeting

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