16 MQ-9B drones to be used along the northern and northeastern sectors: Navy Chief

The Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar recently said that after extensive flying operations and use of SeaGuardian drones for surveillance requirements of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, it has now been decided that the defence forces would get a total of 31 of the latest MQ-9B drones (16 SkyGuardian and 15 SeaGuardian) which will be used for surveillance.

As of now, the deal has been approved by the Defence Acquisition Council and will now be negotiated with the US government for the final price and other contractual requirements.

Further, out of the 31 to be procured, 15 (fifteen) of these drones would be used for surveillance in the maritime zone while the remaining 16 (sixteen) would be used for aerial and ground surveillance along the northern and northeastern sectors.

According to him, the only difference between the sky guardian and the sea guardian for the surveillance is mainly the sensors. So the sensor will be state of the art and they will be able to provide near real-time and almost 24/7 surveillance. So that definitely augments the effort and brings transparency in battlespace awareness. 

Also, the Indian Navy chief said that the P-8I surveillance planes along with the two leased MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones  have proved useful in Ladakh since 2020 and will further improve the capabilities when they start arriving in the country.

And, this is the reason that the Indian Navy would be now extending the lease of the two Predator drones which have flown more than 12,000 hours for surveillance across the country including the boundary with China.

Noteworthy, the two drones were inducted by the Indian Navy under the emergency powers on lease in November 2020 during the initial phase of the military standoff with China and have been used extensively by the force.

These older versions of the Predators were acquired from United States (US) based General Atomics on lease along with the necessary ground control stations and equipment for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) in maritime areas.

About MQ-9B Drones

MQ-9B SeaGuardian is the maritime-focused sibling of the revolutionary SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) that has been missionized using “bolt-on/bolt-off” maritime sensors.

SeaGuardian is designed to fly over the horizon via satellite for over 30 hours (depending on configuration) in all types of weather and safely integrate into civil airspace, enabling joint forces and civil authorities to deliver real-time situational awareness anywhere in the maritime domain—day or night.

This highly versatile maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft can seamlessly integrate a centerline wide-area maritime radar, an automatic identification system, electronic support measures, and a self-contained anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission kit.

SeaGuardian not only integrates the most advanced maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, but it is also the first RPAS in its class to enable real-time search and patrol above and below the ocean’s surface.

SeaGuardian can be configured to conduct a number of maritime ISR operations, including but not limited to:

  • Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief
  • Search and Rescue
  • Law Enforcement
  • Anti-Surface Warfare
  • Anti-Submarine Warfare
  • Airborne Mine Counter Measures
  • Long-Range Strategic ISR
  • Over-the-Horizon Targeting


Wing Span: 66 ft (20m)

Length: 36 ft (11m)

Powerplant: Honeywell TPE331-10

Max Gross Takeoff Weight: 10,500 lb (4763 kg)

Fuel Capacity: 3,900 lb (1769 kg)

Payload Capacity: 850 lb int. (386 kg)

3,000 lb ext. (1361 kg)

Payloads: MTS-B EO/IR

Lynx Multi-mode Radar

Multi-mode maritime radar

Automated Identification System (AIS)


Communications relay

Power: 11.0 kW/45.0 kVA (Block 5) (redundant)

Max Altitude: 50,000 ft (15240m)

Max Endurance: 27 hr

Max Air Speed: 240 KTAS


  • Triple-redundant flight control system
  • Redundant flight control surfaces
  • Remotely piloted or fully autonomous
  • MIL-STD-1760 stores management system
  • C-Band line-of-sight data link control
  • Ku-Band beyond line-of-sight/SATCOM data link control
  • Over 90% system operational availability
  • C-130 transportable (or self-deploys)

Source for About SeaGaurdian:  https://www.ga-asi.com/remotely-piloted-aircraft/mq-9b-seaguardian

Image Courtesy: Economic Times