Days before Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi maiden meeting with US President Donald Trump, United States has reportedly cleared the sale of 22 predator Guardian drones to India. The “game changer” deal, according to governmental sources, is estimated to be around $2-3 billion and has been approved by the State Department. According to the source, the deal would mark a huge step for US-India relations as it would mark the status of “major defence partner”.
Here is everything you need to know about predator drones:
What are predator drones?
Named as “MQ-9 Reaper” by US Air Force and Royal Air Force customers, the Predator B is a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). Powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, the aircraft can be used for multiple missions and possesses higher capabilities than its predecessor aircraft. The engine of the aircraft is integrated with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC). It enhances the performance of the engine and increases its capability to prevent wasteful consumption of fuel at lower altitudes.
What are the features of the craft?
The craft can be flown for over 27 hours in the air at a maximum altitude of 50000 feet and a maximum speed of 240 KTAS. It has MIL-STD-1760 stores management system and seven external stations for carrying payloads. The maximum payload carrying capacity of the aircraft is 1,746 kg. With a fault tolerant, triple-redundant flight control system, the drone has more than 90 per cent system operational availability.
What are the uses of the drones?
According to defence contractors General Atomics, the drones possess the capabilities to be used for long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over a wide-area. Easy configuration of the drone makes it easier to operate the aircraft during missions.
Which countries have used the drones in the past?
Currently the aircraft have been used by Italian, French and Spanish Air Force apart from several US agencies including US Air Force, US Department of Homeland Security and NASA. UK’s aerial warfare force, Royal Air Force, has also acquired the drones.
What are the new modifications going on with the drones?
The Predator B, over the years, has been modified into Predator B ER. The new model was fitted with retrofit-table capabilities such as wing-borne fuel pods and reinforced landing gear. The new modifications increased the endurance of the carrier from 27 hours to 34 hours. In 2016, another modification with the aircraft’s wingspan saw its endurance go up to 42 hours. To achieve the result, the length of the wingspan was increased to 79 feet from 66 feet so that it can hold the fuel previously stored in the fuel pods.