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US clears sale of 31 MQ-9B armed drones to India in $4 billion deal 

The Sky Guardian drone deal, along with precision ammunition, will bolster India’s surveillance and reconnaissance along key sea lanes

US clears sale of 31 MQ-9B armed drones to India in $4 billion deal 
[Source photo: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems]

The United States has approved the sale of 31 MQ-9B armed drones to India in a deal estimated to be valued at $3.99 billion. 

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement that it delivered the required certification notifying the US Congress of this possible sale on Thursday. 

The deal was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US in June 2023.

“The state department has made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale to the government of India of MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $3.99 billion,” the DSCA said. 

MQ-9B Sky Guardian aircraft are manufactured by General Atomics and can carry out activities such as electronic warfare, anti-surface warfare, and anti-submarine warfare, besides intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. 

The acquisition is expected to bolster India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation.

The nearly $4 billion deal includes precision ammunition including 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles and 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDB).

This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defense partner, the agency said. 

India continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region, it added. 

MQ-9B SkyGuardian is High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV, designed to fly over the horizon via satellite for up to 40+ hours in all types of weather and safely integrate into civil airspace, enabling joint forces and civil authorities to deliver real-time situational awareness anywhere in the world—day or night, according to its manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. 

India has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces, the DSCA said. 

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region, it added. 

Of the 31 drones being acquired by India, the Navy will get 15, while the Army and the Indian Air Force will get eight each of the land versions.

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