Satellite images revealed two MQ-9B drones of Indian Navy for the 1st time

For the first time, satellite photography has revealed the two MQ-9B drones leased by the Indian Navy from US defence contractor General Atomics. Damien Symon, an analyst with The Intel Lab who tweets as @detresfa_, observed the drones at INS Rajali, an Indian naval air station in Arakkonam in the Ranipet region of Tamil Nadu.

The drones were leased at a time when tensions between India and China in eastern Ladakh were at their highest, and they arrived at INS Rajali in November 2020. Vice Admiral MS Pawar, who was the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff at the time India leased the drone, stated in a recent interview that the Navy was able to complete the leasing process in 37 days.

The two non-weaponized drones were leased at a time when India was planning to buy up to 30 weaponized versions of the Sea Guardian drones from the US to improve the Navy’s overall surveillance capabilities in the Indian Ocean in the face of a growing Chinese presence in the region.

“The SeaGuardian maritime variant of the MQ-9B can be outfitted with cross-domain capabilities for a large range of maritime surveillance activities, including anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue,” according to General Atomics’ website.

The Narendra Modi government announced a new defence purchasing mechanism in September 2020, allowing the three services to lease military equipment, gear, and platforms including as helicopters, simulators, transport planes, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), among other things.


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