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Sale of 30 MQ-9B Guardian armed drones can transform US-India security partnership

The increasing defence and security cooperation between India and the United States is a very important aspect of our strategic partnership,” said Prime Minster Modi last week during the US President Trump’s visit. The increasingly close security partnership between the two nations has the potential to unlock unprecedented amounts of advanced US technology for India and access to supply chains of US suppliers for Indian manufacturers.

While the visit of President Trump coincided with only the announcement of $3B in defense sales — completely in military helicopters — it is the deals in the coming years that have the potential to transform the US-India security partnership. With the signing of the COMCASA and the ISA-1 agreement and BECA likely to be signed soon, these foundational agreements pave the way for release of the most advanced technology to India which will enhance joint interoperability as envisioned by the creation of the CDS and allow greater battlefield integration.

It has been widely reported that India is considering additional P-8 aircraft and the NASAMS missile shield built. But the largest deal is also likely to be the most significant — the sale of 30 MQ-9B Guardian armed drones from General Atomics for all three Indian Armed Forces. As a joint sale, this aircraft will revolutionise the situational awareness paradigm, allowing seamless monitoring and armed response to threats across India’s vast land and maritime borders.


The Guardian aircraft is highly modular and is easily configured with a variety of payloads, even after the aircraft have been delivered. Consistent with President Trump’s commitment to providing India with the United States’ highest technology, it is expected that the aircraft will include the most advanced sensors and weapons from the United States including SIGINT capability and next generation synthetic aperture radars.

The weapons capability of the aircraft is rumoured to include both, short range Hellfire missiles as well as stand-off missiles, which will allow it to strike targets from a longer distance. Future capabilities are rumored to include carrying jamming pods and other systems necessary for the disabling of enemy systems and performing Anti-Submarine Warfare missions.

Given that the Indian Defence budget is strained to meet the rising demands for security in its neighbourhood and anticipated for the years ahead, it is imperative that the Modi government give top priority to finalising the Guardian acquisition this year in order to sign the deal in early 2021.

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