The MQ-9B drones are equipped with advanced communication intelligence sensors, and an arsenal of precision-guided munitions
In a move that vividly illustrates the growing strategic alliance between the United States and India, the US has approved a major Foreign Military Sale, facilitating the transfer of 31 MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft to India. The deal is valued at nearly USD 4 billion. 

This development follows the formal notification to Congress by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), marking a crucial phase in one of the most significant defence transactions between the two democracies.

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of India of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $3.99 billion. The Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today,” the DSCA said in a release on Thursday (February 1, 2024).

Providing further details, it said the deal also includes 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles; 16 M36E9 Hellfire captive air training missiles; 310 GBU-39B/B laser Small Diameter Bombs (SDB); and 8 GBU-39B/B LSDB guided test vehicles with live fuzes among others.

The proposed mega drone deal was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US in June 2023, signifying a marked step towards strengthening India's defense mechanisms. This acquisition is poised to significantly enhance India's capabilities in unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance, particularly in strategic sea lanes, addressing both current and future security challenges.

The MQ-9B drones, procured from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including embedded global positioning systems, advanced communication intelligence sensors, and an arsenal of precision-guided munitions. This comprehensive package augments India's surveillance capabilities and its operational readiness in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia regions, grasping political stability and economic progress.

The announcement has set off a procedural review period by the US Congress, a standard step that underscores the legislative oversight of such significant defense sales. Both nations anticipate concluding the sale with a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA), pending congressional approval.

Responding to a question on the status of the deal at the weekly media briefing in New Delhi on Wednesday,  Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Official Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal stated, "It is a matter which pertains to the US side. They have their own internal processes and we are respectful of that. We have to be respectful and we are respectful of that".

The sale strategically prioritises both nations in upgrading their defense and surveillance capabilities amidst a rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape.

The sale additionally advances the mutual interests in regional security and stability between both nations. As they navigate the intricate dimensions of this partnership, the MQ-9B drone acquisition stands as a significant milestone in their collaborative defense and strategic endeavors.