In­dian Navy set to get 22 Guardian Drones for

Ocean Sur­veil­lance

India Strategic - - CONTENTS - By Gul­shan Luthra

NEW DELHI. The US Gov­ern­ment has cleared the sale of 22 Guardian Un­manned Aerial Sys­tems ( UAS) for the In­dian Navy. A pro­posal for th­ese UAS, or drones, was for­mally mooted by the In­dian Navy through the Min­istries of De­fence and Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs last year, and cleared by the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion just be­fore Prime Min­is­ter’s Modi’s visit to Washington in June. A pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tion though was given to the In­dian Navy a lit­tle be­fore, au­thor­i­ta­tive sources here told In­dia Strate­gic.

Built by Gen­eral Atomics (GA), a crown jewel com­pany of USA, the un­armed Guardian is also known as Preda­tor B, or Sea Guardian, and is the world’s most so­phis­ti­cated mar­itime sur­veil­lance air­craft. It can be op­er­ated from ground sta­tions or ships.

In­dian Navy of­fi­cers have al­ready worked out the con­fig­u­ra­tion it needs with GA of­fi­cials, and dis­cus­sions for the ac­qui­si­tion process should be­gin in Au­gust or so. The US will sell it on G- to- G ( Gov­ern­ment to Gov­ern­ment) ba­sis, un­der its For­eign Mil­i­tary Sales ( FMS) pro­gramme con­ducted by the De­fense Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (DSCA) of the De­part­ment of De­fense (DOD).

No­tably, the In­dian Navy al­ready has a for­mi­da­ble ca­pa­bil­ity in its Boe­ing P8-I mar­itime sur­veil­lance and at­tack air­craft par­tic­u­larly to track and hunt hos­tile sub­marines. When this ca­pa­bil­ity is com­bined with that of the Guardian, it will get an un­matched com­bi­na­tion for sur­veil­lance and at­tack mis­sions in the In­dian Ocean, specif­i­cally the area from the Malacca Strait to the Gulf of Aden which is re­garded as an area of in­ter­est by In­dia.

The P8-I can be on sta­tion for more than four hours, while the un­manned Sea Guardian can be in the air for more than 40 hours. Both can fly low or up to 40,000 feet.

The big ques­tion now is how long will it take to ac­quire the Sea Guardian?

Dr Vivek Lall, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, US and In­ter­na­tional Strate­gic Devel­op­ment for GA, de­clined com­ment ex­cept to say that the com­pany will be guided by the US DOD and that “We will try to meet all cus­tomer re­quire­ments.”

Dr Lall, who has ear­lier worked with NASA, Raytheon and Boe­ing, han­dles the sales of Preda­tor vari­ants and nu­clear en­ergy sys­tems for the GA’s global cus­tomers.

GA has to its credit some ex­cel­lent, patented in­no­va­tions in nu­clear and en­ergy ap­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing the lat­est Elec­tro­mag­netic Propul­sion for launch­ing air­craft from air­craft car­ri­ers. The com­pany also holds the patent for a key safety com­po­nent used in nu­clear re­ac­tors glob­ally.

Com­ing back to the Preda­tor B, Chief of Naval Staff Ad­mi­ral Su­nil Lanba has al­ready ob­served that the Navy is look­ing for­ward to ac­quir­ing com­bat jets, drones and sub­marines AS FAST AS POS­SI­BLE. Now that the US has cleared the deal of Guardians at the high­est level, their ac­qui­si­tion time­line is a mat­ter of how soon the two sides agree on the price, which is likely around $2 bil­lion ac­cord­ing to un­con­firmed pub­lished fig­ures.

A deal is re­garded done when the first pay­ment is made, and then the de­liv­ery time is gen­er­ally 36 months for the ini­tial lot be­gin­ning

that date. Sources how­ever said that the Navy is look­ing at get­ting the Guardians in about three to four years from now.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the In­dian Navy has al­ready worked out the re­quire­ments. De­tails are not avail­able but go­ing by a pub­lished com­pany state­ment, th­ese in­clude 40- hour mis­sion en­durance, Pow­er­ful 360 de­gree mar­itime search radar with In­verse Syn­thetic Aper­ture Radar, all weather 24x7 high def­i­ni­tion full mo­tion im­agery and In­te­gra­tion with Manned air/sur­face as­sets.

It may be noted that the In­dian Navy has a highly ad­vanced Sea-Land-Air-Space com­mu­ni­ca­tion fa­cil­ity at Gur­gaon near New Delhi to network its var­i­ous sea, land, air, space and sub- sea as­sets. Like the P8-I, the Sea Guardian will also be in­te­grated with this fa­cil­ity, called In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment and Anal­y­sis Cen­tre (IMAC). A data fu­sion cen­tre, it was in­au­gu­rated in 2014 by the then De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar.

The In­dian Navy also has a ded­i­cated satel­lite for its own re­quire­ments.

Dr Vivek Lall, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, US and In­ter­na­tional Strate­gic Devel­op­ment, Gen­eral Atomics

(file photo)

For­mer De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar in­au­gu­rat­ing In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment and Anal­y­sis Cen­tre (IMAC), a Navy-CG Joint Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre at Gur­gaon on Novem­ber 23, 2014

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