$4 billion India-US deal: From hellfire missile to small diameter bombs, what makes Predator drones so de

The MQ9-B SkyGuardian “hunter-killer” drones being sold to India will come equipped with advanced surveillance and lethal attack capabilities, according to key details disclosed by Biden administration to US Congress.
The Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) had sent a letter to US State Department last week, saying that it has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to India of MQ-9B Remotely

Piloted Aircraft

and related equipment.

The Big Picture
In the letter addressed to Senator

Ben Cardin

, who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Biden administration said that the drones include highly sensitive surveillance and lethal attack equipment, such as hellfire missiles and laser small diameter bombs. According to the letter, which has a significant classified section given the nature of the defence equipment and technology, the SkyGuardian drones and related equipment is being sold at an estimated cost of $3.9 billion.

In Numbers

  1. 31 drones will be sold to India, along with;
  2. 170 AGM-114R Hellfire Missiles;
  3. 16 M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles’
  4. 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDB);
  5. 8 GBU-39B/B LSDB Guided Test Vehicles (GTVs) with live fuzes
  6. $3.99 will be estimated total cost, subject to negotiations

Multi-Domain Operations

  • MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) will be designed for Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE); intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); target acquisition; and strike missions.
  • The drones are highly modular and easily configurable, accommodating various payloads and munitions for multiple missions including counter-land, counter-sea, and anti-submarine strike operations.
  • Equipped with MX-20HD gyro-stabilized Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) targeting system for surveillance and laser designation.
  • Ground Control Station (GCS) can be fixed or mobile, meeting mission requirements for small, manned, and unmanned ISR platforms.
  • AGM-114R Hellfire missile with Semi-Active Laser (SAL) will offer enhanced guidance, capable of destroying hard, soft, and enclosed targets from higher altitudes.
  • GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bomb (LSDB) All Up Round (AUR), a 250-pound OPS semi-active laser guided precision glide weapon for striking fixed and stationary targets, equipped with laser guidance set for striking moving targets.

Countering China

The proposed sale, which includes a comprehensive package of equipment, is aimed at bolstering India’s defence capabilities amid China’s growing assertiveness. India has been eager to modernise its military, especially in the wake of tensions with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which worsened after a deadly confrontation in 2020. The multi-operation drones can be a game-changer for India and boost its surveillance and deterrent capabilities along both China and Pakistan borders. Notably, following clashes with China in the Galwan Valley, the government leased two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from US for a year. The drones helped monitor Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean Region, and the lease was later extended. The proposed sale also cements the growing strategic bonhomie between the two countries, with Washington viewing New Delhi as a strong regional counterweight to Beijing.

(With inputs from PTI)