The Predator drones of the Indian Navy have flown over 13,000 hours of missions across the Indian Ocean Region from INS Rajali, Naval Air Base here and helped the maritime force keep a close watch on the entire area for interest of the country.
The two drones have been operated by the Indian Navy since November 2020 when the force got them on lease from the American firm General Atomics as part of the emergency procurement powers.
“The aircraft has the capability to cover over 4,000-8,000 kms in one go and can operate for more than 30 hours in one stretch which allows them to cover the entire Indian Ocean Region in one go,” the second in command of the Navy’s drone unit Lieutenant Commander Lokesh Pandey told ANI.
Team covered the operations of the most advanced drone of the force here where the Predator showcased its capabilities.
Asked about the 15 more advanced Predator MQ-9B drones that the force would be getting from the US under a tri-services deal, the first Mission Commander of the Predator drones in the country Lieutenant Commander Varsha said the new drones being planned would be equipped with weapons including air to ground missiles, bombs and submarine detection kits fitted with sonobuoys which can help detect the hidden enemy submarines.
The Predator drones can be equipped with American Hellfire missiles, bombs and other high-level sensors which can be used for carrying out strikes from long ranges against enemy targets.The American forces have used drones to carry out countless strikes against terrorists like al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri, and others.The Indian armed forces are getting 31 of these drones in total as part of a deal announced by India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US earlier this year.
The Indian Ministry of Defence also handed over the Letter of Request to the US government for the drones after which the two sides will now start holding commercial negotiations.
The 31 drones are being offered at USD 3.1 billion but the Indian side is hopeful to get a concession on the price being offered. The Navy will get 15 of the 31 drones while the Army and the Air Force will get 8 each of them.
Asked about the deployment of drones in places like Ladakh, Lieutenant Commander Lokesh said the unmanned aircraft can provide a direct live feed of the battlefield situation on the ground from high mountainous areas to the top commanders sitting in headquarters in Delhi.
Officials said the aircraft while flying missions over the Indian Ocean near the Sunda strait has on many occasions identified and alerted the movement of Chinese warships movements through the Indian areas of interest and kept track of their research and fishing vessels operating in the area.
The Indian Navy has started training more number of officers and sailors to operate the drones in their fleet and will be training them to keep the drones ready for operations as part of the contractor-owned contractor-operated deal.