- Amid standoff with the United States over deal with Russia for S-400 Triumf missile system, India is all set to acquire 30 weaponized Sea Guardian drones (or Predator-B) with the US.
- With this mega defence acquisition, India becomes the third country and the first non-NATO member nation to get the armed version of Guardian drones by the US.
- The drones will be used by all the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces with 10 drones each for the Army, Navy, and the IAF to seek and destroy targets on land and sea.
- The proposal has now reached the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) for approval.
- After getting approval from the DAC, a “letter of request” will be issued to the US government.
- The United States passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against Russia in August 2017 for reportedly influencing and manipulating the 2016 presidential election process.
- CAATSA mandates the US administration to punish entities engaging in significant transaction with the defence or intelligence establishment of the countries marked adversaries by USA.
- Core provisions of the CAATSA, including sanctions on Russian business entities and senior Russian political and business figures, came into effect in January 2018.
- The U.S. had warn that Indo-Russia deal on S-400 Triumf would invoke sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law, which penalises defence purchases from Russia.
- Also, the US had reportedly offered fifth generation fighter F-35 to India if India drops its plan to purchase the Russian-made air defense system.
- However, India has already made it clear that it won’t cancel the acquisition.
About Guardian drones
- It is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations
- The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the USAF to indicate their human ground controllers
- The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance
- These are capable of flying for a longer duration compared to a fighter aircraft and best-suited for carrying out long-range intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
- It has an overall endurance of over 27 hours, these drones can operate at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet, with a total payload capacity of 1,746 kg including 1,361 kg of external stores.
- Armed drones are capable of firing missiles and precision-guided munitions on enemy targets before returning to their home bases to re-arm for the next mission.
- Drones have been a huge success in reducing the ration of civilian to combatant deaths, thus it insulates pilots from the risk of combat.
- This risk-reducing capability makes it critical to personnel safety and mission success. It can also fly in a completely autonomous mode.
- It will greatly help to enhance India’s overall maritime domain awareness in its strategic backyard.
About S-400 Missile system
- The S-400 Triumf is an anti-aircraft weapon system developed in the 1990s by Russia’s Almaz Central Design Bureau as an upgrade of the S-300
- It has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007.
- S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.
- It can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of up to 400-km and altitude of 30-km.
- It uses four missiles to fill its performance envelope:
- the very-long-range 40N6 (400 km)
- the long-range 48N6 (250 km)
- the medium-range 9M96E2 (120 km)
- the short-range 9M96E (40 km)