MQ-9 Predators Drones: Why This Deal with U.S. Could Be a Game Changer For India

MQ-9 Predators Drone Front View

The MQ-9 Predators, also known as Reapers, became the center of military attention once again after killing Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with Hellfire missiles. Let’s learn more about these Predator drones now that there are rumors that India is in advanced talks to purchase 30 MQ-9B Predators.


  • The Indian Navy has been operating the MQ-9B Sea Guardian since 2020.
  • The drone can operate at over 40,000 feet, giving the Indian military surveillance capacity in the high-altitude Himalayan border areas.
  • The Predator drones were conceived in the early 1990s for aerial reconnaissance and forward observation roles after the failure of GNAT 750 in operations over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 and 1994.
  • With China increasing its naval activity in the Indian Ocean Region, the need for Reaper drones seems imperative to control China.

The MQ-9B Predator drones’ history

Following the failure of GNAT 750 in operations over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 and 1994, Predator drones were developed in the early 1990s for aerial reconnaissance and forward observation roles. For medium-altitude tactical reconnaissance, the GNAT 750 was replaced by the more capable and improved RQ-1 Predator due to a number of technical problems.

It began flying over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 and later participated in the US invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as well as the civil wars in Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2014.

The US Airforce (USAF) began to feel the need for more sophisticated versions by 1999, so General Atomics started developing the Predator B, which replaced the original Predator and entered service as the MQ-9 Reaper in 2007.

Predator is a “Tier II” MALE UAS that is operated by the CIA and the USAF (medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system).

Technical details

The SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian models of the MQ-9B are two variations. The MQ-9B Sea Guardian has been in use by the Indian Navy since 2020.

The General Atomics MQ-9B Sea Guardian has a fuel capacity of 6,000 lb and can carry up to 12,500 lb (5,670 kg) (2,721 kg).

The drone’s operating altitude of more than 40,000 feet gives the Indian military the ability to monitor the high-altitude Himalayan border regions. The Predator is useful for 24-hour surveillance because of its 40-hour maximum endurance.

Additionally, the MQ-9B Sea Guardian can support expeditionary, maritime surveillance, anti-submarine, anti-surface, strike, and electronic warfare missions.

Automatic takeoffs and landings are also possible with the MQ-9B Sea Guardian.

The USAF refers to the MQ-9 and other UAVs as remotely piloted vehicles/aircraft (RPV/RPA). The first hunter-killer UAV, as it is commonly known in the US, is monitored and controlled by aircrew at the Ground Control Station (GCS).

Why does India need Predators?

India needs armed drones, which will cost over $3 billion, to ramp up its surveillance system in the Indian Ocean and along its border with China.

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There have been military standoffs between India and China along their 3,488 km border since2020, according to multiple reports. Both sides are said to have sent out close to two lakh troops each. Using a fleet of unmanned drones, India has significantly increased surveillance along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and the addition of these drones would be a significant improvement in India’s monitoring program.

MQ-9 Predators Drones: Why This Deal with U.S. Could Be a Game Changer For India

The need for Reaper drones appears to be essential to control China as a result of China’s increased naval activity in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which includes docking its newest space-tracking ship, Yuan Wang 5, which can monitor satellites, rockets, and intercontinental ballistic missile launches close to the Indian coastline.

Additionally, several reports emphasized how pleased the Indian Navy is with the Predators’ performance. In 2020, the navy received two MQ-9B Sea Guardians. General Atomics leased the drones to us for a year, which was later extended due to their performance.

Some significant Predator/Reaper drone operations

According to reports, Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated in January 2020 outside Baghdad airport using an MQ-9 Reaper. Soleimani was the head of the elite Quds Force and the paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was in charge of the Middle East operations.

The murder increased tensions between the US and Iran to a new level, and Iran responded by launching several missiles at US bases in Iraq. On the US side, there were, however, no reported damages or casualties.