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MQ-9B drones deal

Published: 9th Feb, 2024


The MQ-9B 'Predator' or Reaper drone, one of the deadliest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the world, will soon be in the arsenal of India's military.

Key Highlights

  • The United States approved the sale of 31 of the MQ-9B 'Predator' or Reaper drone, at an estimated cost of USD 3.99 billion
  • Among the 31, the Navy will get 15 Sea Guardian drones, the naval variant of the Predator.
  • The Air Force and the Army will each get eight Sky Guardian drones.
  • The 31 MQ-9B drones will come with all paraphernalia, including 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 16 M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles, 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDB).


  • The advanced MQ-9 version replaced the RQ-1 'Predator' in 2018.
  • The Predator drone, which was first flown way back in 1995, was used extensively by the United States in its war on terror after the 9/11 attacks.
  • The drones were deployed to target al-Qaida hideouts in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan in the early 2000s.

MQ-9B SkyGuardian Drone

  • Developed by: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI).
  • It is the first hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for long-endurance and high-altitude surveillance.
  • It has the ability to operate with pin-drop silence.
  • A Predator drone can carry around 1,700 kg of payload, including four missiles and around 450 kg of bombs, and travel 2,000 miles without refuelling.
  • The Predator drones are also used by Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
  • The drone can fly as close to 250 metres from the ground without the target even having an inkling it is there unless spotted.
  • The drone can fly higher than a commercial aircraft, around 50,000 feet above the ground, and has a top speed of 275 mph or 442 km/h.
  • The drone can fly continuously or hover over targets for up to 35 hours.
  • Apart from air-to-air missiles, the drone can also be equipped with air-to-ground missiles, making it unique.
  • Economical: The MQ-9B can match 80 per cent of the capability of a manned patrol aircraft at about 20 per cent of its cost per hour, according to General Atomics.

Naval Variant

The Sea Guardian, the Predator's naval variant, has a 360-degree surface-search maritime radar, and sonobuoy monitoring system, enabling it to be deployed for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions.

Importance for India:

  • Effective controlled operations: With the drones in its arsenal, Indian forces will be able to launch remote-controlled operations on terrorist hideouts.
  • Capability enhancement: With its long-endurance, persistent surveillance and strike capability, the MQ-9 Reapers can enhance the Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of India’s Armed Forces.
  • Strengthening of power: This increased reconnaissance will be useful as India continues to have strained relations with neighbouring countries, Pakistan and China.

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