The Indian Navy has leased a pair of MQ-9 SeaGuardian drones that come with an expensive price tag as instead of buying them.
A report by Hindustan Times states that two MQ-9Bs have been leased for one year. The aircraft arrived in India in early November and the Navy began undertaking missions last week. Capable of operating at an altitude of 40,000 feet, the MQ-9B UAVs have an endurance of 30 hours and a range of more than 5,000 nautical miles.
The drones will be based at the Naval Air Station Rajali in Tamil Nadu, which is also home to the Indian Navy’s fleet of P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
New Delhi has been mulling at MQ-9 purchase for long. It wanted to acquire 30 drones for $3 billion. After the U.S. eased restrictions on the export of its military grade drones with maximum speed below 800kmph, India was expected to go ahead with the contract. The matter was reportedly even discussed during the recent U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi.
The country has lately been encouraging leasing of military equipment, and had even introduced it as another category in its Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 that came into effect on October 1. Aside of being a cheaper option, leasing provides means to possess and operate an asset without owning it. It may be preferred in cases where there are time constraints and where the capability is needed for a specific time or would be under-utilised if procured.