Amid the ongoing stand-off with China along the northern borders, the Indian Navy said that two Predator (MQ-9 Sea Guardian) drones are helping the maritime force enhance its surveillance all across the Indian Ocean region and keep a close watch on the ‘vessels of interest’ passing from there.
The two drones were leased by the Indian Navy from the US during the height of the clash in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley to help the forces keep a close eye on the movement of the Chinese warships and other suspicious vessels.
During an interview with ANI, Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar said, “The long endurance of the MQ-9 Sea Guardian drones allows us to keep a watch on a large area and has helped us to enhance our maritime domain awareness. This also allows us to keep a close eye on any vessel of interest operating in the region.”
Asked if the ‘vessels of interest’ monitored by the predator drones included any Chinese warship or research vessels operating in the area, he said, “The drones are used to keep a watch on the potential adversaries but also the vessels of interest who are not following the rules. This may be from any country China or Japan or any country.”
The officer said that the drones with their long endurance help the force keep a watch all along with the Indian Ocean Region, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea region.
The Indian Navy was the first force among the three services to go for the leasing option provided in the new Defence Acquisition Procedure to get the two drones from an American firm and deployed them at a Southern Navy base to keep a watch on the entire area looked after by the force.
The drones can fly for more than 35 hours at a stretch and can also hover over an area of interest or a ship for a long time to see what their activities are.
The Chinese Navy-affiliated Research vessels generally operate in the Indian Ocean region for surveillance activities and their activities are of interest to the Indian forces.
India is also processing the case for the acquisition of 30 more of these drones which will come armed with Hellfire missiles which will allow the taking down of any potential targets by the forces during its surveillance missions.
The project is at the moment being discussed at the Defence Ministry level and will need to be cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security due to its enormous cost.