MQ-9B drone
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$100 Million per unit, Why are the MQ-9B drones that India wants to buy so expensive?


India is set to finalise a long-conceived proposal to procure 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the U.S. for the three services at an estimated cost of over $3 billion (around ₹22,000 crores).

Compared with other major military powers, India is not too late in the application of military drones and is currently the world’s third largest importer of drones. However, Indian armed forces are not familiar with armed UAVs. This is largely related to the fact that the Indian army does not attach importance to drones, currently, the Indian armed force using Israeli drones especially for surveillance. However, after discovering the advanced aspects of UAV applications in the United States, Turkey and other countries, India has also “opened up” and has shown greater interest in UCAV (Unmanned combat aerial vehicle).

Israeli Heron drones use by Indian armed forces
Israeli Heron drones use by Indian armed forces

The Indian Ministry of Defense is about to sign an agreement to purchase 30 MQ-9B drones from the United States at the end of this year, when the foreign ministers and defense ministers of the United States and India are in the “2+2” talks. The estimated cost of The contract is more than $3 billion (around ₹22,000 crores).

It should be noted that the MQ-9B manufactured by General Atomic Aerospace Systems is more advanced than the MQ-9 “Predator”, and it can even be said that it is not an order of magnitude at all. Although the appearance of Indian variant is similar, the avionics and weapon systems have huge changes, With stronger reconnaissance and strike capabilities.

It is reported that India is the first non-US allied user of the MQ-9B UCAV. Previously, it was only equipped in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and other countries. This is mainly related to the sensitivity of the UAV and US legal restrictions. Compared with the MQ-9 “Predator” with a unit price of 30 million U.S. dollars, the unit price of MQ-9B purchased by India this time is as high as 100 million U.S. dollars. Of course, this is after the related ammunition, spare parts, training, and command and control systems are apportioned. As a result, even so, it can be seen that the price of MQ-9B is high. What you get for what you pay for, India never loses money when it buys high-tech US-made weapons.

MQ-9B UAV
MQ-9B UAV

It is worth noting that the 30 MQ-9B UAVs purchased by India will be evenly distributed to the Indian Navy, Land and Air Forces, that is to say, the three services will each get 10. Obviously, this is the result of wrestling among the three Indian armed forces, and they all want this advanced U.S.-made drone. Fortunately, the MQ-9B adopts an open architecture and can be installed with different avionics to meet the needs of different services.

Prior to this, India had once shelved the purchase of U.S.-made drones due to price issues. But at the same time, there is a large gap in the use of UAVs. As a compensation plan, India leased two MQ-9Bs. These two MQ-9s are operated by the Indian Navy, but the maintenance is done by American technicians. The outstanding performance of these two MQ-9Bs finally motivated India’s determination to purchase 30 MQ-9Bs.

MQ-9 Reaper Drone with 8 Hellfire missile
MQ-9 Reaper Drone with 8 Hellfire missile

For the time being, India’s use and purchase of U.S.-made UAVs seems to place more emphasis on its reconnaissance capabilities. The MQ-9B has a maximum range of more than 10,000 kilometers and a battery life of more than 40 hours. With its airborne reconnaissance equipment, it can monitor a wide range of The area is very important to the Indian armed force, especially the Indian navy. In addition, the aircraft also has 8 hanging points under the wing, which can carry various weapons including Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs. Once these 30 MQ-9Bs are acquired, the Indian army will no longer lag behind in combat drones.


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