Indian Govt Seals Sea Guardian Drones Procurement Deal With US

The government-to-government sale will add to the $5 billion of US arms already in the pipeline. 

2 min read
Hindi Female

In a bid to increase its vigil over India’s coastline, the Indian government has clinched a major defence purchase agreement, involving the procurement of the Sea Guardian unmanned aerial systems (UAS), Business Standard reported. The purchase of the 22 Sea Guardian drones is estimated to cost the exchequer around $2 billion. The project will be completely outsourced with no manufacturing taking place in India.

The Sea Guardian, built by US firm General Atomics, is the naval version of the legendary Predator B armed drone, which the US has used to kill terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

After Prime Minister Modi met President Trump met in June 2017, a joint statement was released stating that US had given the nod to India regarding the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems. The move will in turn “enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests”, the report added.


Till date, Washington had green lit sales of the Sea Guardian merely for US allies engaged in active combat operations in alliance with US military forces.

Reportedly, US regards India as a “major defence partner” which has been a major factor in this sale. India is now the first non-NATO country to which Washington had agreed to export the Sea Guardian.

Despite India stating its preference for armed Guardians, Washington has offered the unarmed Sea Guardian, which performs maritime surveillance.

Procurement of Predator ‘B’ Sea Guardian is being progressed under Buy (Global) category [of the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016] and no transfer of technology is envisaged.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman responding to a member’s query in the Parliament

Sea Guardians’ Capabilities

The Sea Guardian travels at 300 kilometres per hour at 50,000 feet. It has the capacity to fly 14-hour missions to surveil waters 1,800 km from the base. According to the report, a Sea Guardian sends the ‘imagery in real time to a ground control room on base, which flies the drone through a two-way data link.’


Being a “Category 1” system under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Sea Guardians are tightly controlled because of their presumed ability to also deliver nuclear weapons, reported Business Standard.

Insights of the Deal

After three Indian requests to the Pentagon, two Senators wrote to Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to clear the sale, the report added.


India’s indigenous RPV development programme, meanwhile, is struggling to get ahead of its competitors.

The development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Rustom-II is an indigenous effort wherein majority of the sub-systems like airframe, landing gear, avionics systems, flight control systems and datalink systems have been developed indigenously through various private industries.

Nirmala Sitharaman updated the Parliament on 20 December 

“Sub-systems like propulsion systems, sensor systems and payloads have been currently imported for which indigenous development has been undertaken through sister DRDO labs [Defence R&D Organisation laboratories],” she further added.

(With inputs from Business Standard)

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