The US government’s decision to grant India the licence for the export of 22 Guardian drones through the US foreign military sales programme will address gaps in India’s maritime surveillance capabilities. However, India’s quest for armed drones in the absence of a defined strategy for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has created misconceptions about their utility for India in conducting cross-border strikes or “surgical strikes” against Pakistan-based terrorists.
The Guardian drones, manufactured by General Atomics, will complement India’s maritime surveillance aircraft at sea in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, helping boost battlespace awareness and target acquisition or guide forces on suspected surface threats. The additional capability will free up the navy’s Boeing P-81s for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). This will be critical given the increasing forays of Chinese submarines in the India Ocean region and India’s capacity-deficit in ASW.
India’s pursuit of armed drones has led it to order