U.S. greenlights $3.99 billion deal for sale of 31 advanced MQ-9B sky guardian drones to India

The sale includes drones allocated to the Indian Navy, Indian Army, and Indian Air Force, with the Indian Navy set to receive 15 out of the 31 drones. The collaboration between the two nations also extends to the GE-414 engine deal, with both defence deals managed by the national security advisors of India and the US, Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan.

The U.S. State Department has officially informed Congress of the approval for the potential sale of 31 MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, along with related missiles, bombs, and equipment, to India. Estimated to be valued at just under $4 billion, this deal signifies a significant advancement in bilateral defence capabilities. The sale aims to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship and enhance the security of India, a key defence partner in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency confirmed the approval, stating that the proposed sale would support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. It aligns with the shared goal of improving the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and enhancing India’s defence capabilities to address current and future threats. The sale includes MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment, contributing to unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation.

The deal received the first-tier clearance after consultation with the chair and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee, a crucial step in the legislative process. If there is no objection within a 30-day timeframe, the deal will obtain legislative clearance. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency emphasized that the sale would not impact the military balance in the region.

The proposed allocation acknowledges India’s commitment to modernizing its military, stating that the country would absorb the articles and services into its armed forces seamlessly. The principal contractor for the deal is General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, with negotiations expected to define any offset agreements between the purchaser and the contractor.

The sale includes drones allocated to the Indian Navy, Indian Army, and Indian Air Force, with the Indian Navy set to receive 15 out of the 31 drones. The collaboration between the two nations also extends to the GE-414 engine deal, with both defence deals managed by the national security advisors of India and the US, Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan.

The US government’s support for the drone deal emphasizes the strategic importance of the U.S.-India Defense Partnership, highlighting significant growth in the past decade. The deal is seen as a crucial step in advancing strategic technology cooperation and military collaboration in the region. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has respected the internal processes of the US government, emphasizing the need to respect the U.S. side’s decision-making procedures.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian, a descendant of General Atomics’ MQ-9A Reaper, is designed to provide enhanced payload capacity and an open architecture system, enabling advanced sensor integration for intelligence gathering and operational versatility.