Leh (Ladakh) : Amid the ongoing standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh, Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar on Thursday said the P-8I surveillance planes along with the two leased Predator drones have proved useful in Ladakh since 2020 and will further improve the capabilities when they start arriving in the country.
“The sensors they (Predators) have are quite a state of the art and they provide good recognizance and intelligence effort. So I would say no asset belongs to just any one service. It’s a national asset and we need to use it wherever it can give the best results and optimal results so that the nation benefits,” he added.
Asked about the induction of the proposed 31 Predator drones and their surveillance capability, the Admiral said that the surveillance capabilities will definitely increase.
“Out of the 31, about 16 of them will be primarily for the border areas, for the land region. The only difference between the sky guardian and the sea guardian for the surveillance is mainly the sensors,” he said.
“So the sensor will be state of the art and they will be able to provide near real-time and almost 24/7 surveillance. So that definitely augments the effort and brings transparency in battlespace awareness,” he added.
“The P8I have been used here along with the army and the Air Force teams and we found it quite beneficial. And similarly, we found that the two sea guardians which we have on lease are being operated since number 2020. They’ve also been quite useful,” he added.
The Indian Navy is extending the lease of the two Predator drones which have flown more than 12,000 hours for surveillance across the country including the boundary with China.
The two drones were inducted by the Indian Navy under the emergency powers on lease in November 2020 during the initial phase of the military standoff with China and have been used extensively by the force.
The two drones of the older version of the Predators were taken on lease along with the ground control stations and other equipment.
After extensive flying operations and use of these drones for surveillance requirements of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, it has now been decided that the defence forces would get a total of 31 of the latest Predator MQ-9B drones which will be used for surveillance.
The drone deal was announced by India and the US during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US.
The deal has been approved by the Defence Acquisition Council and will now be negotiated with the US government for the final price and other contractual requirements.
Fifteen of these drones would be used for surveillance in the maritime zone while the reaming 16 would be used for aerial and ground surveillance along the northern and northeastern sectors.
The drones are located at the INS Rajali air base of the Navy in Tamil Nadu which is also planned to be one of the three hubs of the high-altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles. (Agencies)