As the world is entering into a war strategic era where machines are becoming the first line of defence followed by human intervention, which was the other way round earlier, the role of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has become more protuberant.
Giving a major fillip to Indo-US defence cooperation, India has begun the process to procure remotely piloted MQ9 Predator ‘B’ Sea Guardian from the United States. The Indian Navy has taken on lease two Sea Guardian drones from an American defence major (General Atomics) to enhance surveillance over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). India and the US signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in Sept last year.
The drone deal that was put on hold for 2 years has fructified after the signing of the COMCASA thus recognising India as a Major Defence Partner. Last month, India and the US signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) that allows the US to share sensitive geospatial data with India that could be used in increasing the performance of both weapon and surveillance systems.
The Sea Guardian UAS manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of the US is the naval variant of the Predator B drone which is now known more appropriately by the name MQ-9 Reaper. This is a long-endurance, high-altitude platform that can be employed in an armed patrol role. It was the first hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was employed operationally by the US Air Force for the first time as early as in March 2007.
This unmanned platform has also been in service with the armed forces of Australia, Britain, Netherlands and Italy. In comparison with its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper is larger and more powerful as it is equipped by a 900 horsepower Honeywell TPE 331-10 turboprop engine, as against the 119horsepower engine on the MQ-1 Predator.