Indian Army, IAF to jointly deploy Predator drones in Gorakhpur, Sarsawa air base

The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are planning to jointly deploy MQ-9B Predator drones at air bases in Sarsawa and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, for upgrading their surveillance capabilities all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

The drone deal, expected to be worth around USD 4 billion is being done at tri services level with the Indian Navy leading the negotiations for it with the American side.

“The MQ-9B drones require a significant runway length for take off and landing which are available with the Indian Air Force.

That is why, the Army dornes are planned to be deployed with the IAF at airbases in Sarsawa and Gorakhpur,” defence officials told ANI.

As per of the drone deal with the US, 31 MQ-9B drones are being acquired of which 15 would be for coverage of the maritime zone and would be deployed by the Indian Navy.

The IAF and the Army will have eight each of these highly capable long endurance drones and would be able to cover almost all the areas of interest along the LAC with support from other existing assets, the officials said.

The American side has given its letter of acceptance to the Indian side at a price tag of around USD 4 billion.

The American side is also looking at indigenisation of the parts and weapons to be used by the drones.

There is also a provision of transfer of technology of some equipment to Indian entities under the agreement, they said.

With a flight time of over 36 hours at heights over 40,000 feet, the drones can be armed with Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and smart bombs, this fighter-sized drone specializes in(intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) missions.

The Predator drones are expected to significantly enhance India’s ability to conduct unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols, particularly in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and along its land borders with China and Pakistan.

MQ-9B has proven to be a critical asset in safeguarding India’s security interests as it was used to extensively to monitor anti-piracy operations from naval headquarters to get a clear picture of the actions taking place almost 3,000 km from Indian shores.