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India still in talks over MQ-9B acquisition

India is seeking to acquire 30 General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian/SeaGuardian UAVs to help enhance its multidomain operations. (Crown Copyright)

India's potential acquisition of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SeaGuardian/SkyGuardian has been at a high level of discussion since at least July 2022, sources said.

There has been speculation that India is looking for alternative, domestically developed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). However, C Mark Brinkley, company spokesperson for GA-ASI, told Janes, “We understand that the MQ-9B acquisition programme is at an advanced stage of discussion between the US and India governments.”

India's acquisition of 30 MQ-9Bs (likely 10 for each branch of the armed forces) has a proposed price of USD3 billion in what is a government-to-government deal. Local media has said that India is seeking clarity from Washington about acquisition and maintenance costs, plus transfers of technology.

Janes has learned that New Delhi is said to be awaiting these clarifications before it will make a decision. Following this, the project will be moved to “acceptance of necessity” by India's Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh.

However, it is unclear if the US government has responded to India's request for clarification. A US State Department spokesperson told Janes that the department “cannot comment on potential military sales until they have been formally notified to Congress”, as a matter of policy and practice.

Acquisition of the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) MQ-9Bs will give the Indian military the ability to conduct long-range, unmanned surveillance and strike capabilities. The aircraft will very likely enhance the Indian military's multidomain operations. These include land and maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, maritime surface strike, and surveillance and electronic warfare capabilities.

According to Janes

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