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SOURCE: AFI

India’s upcoming acquisition of 31 MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, a $3.99 billion deal with the US, will see them equipped with 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles. These missiles, known for their precision and minimal collateral damage, will bolster India’s maritime surveillance and defense capabilities.

Standing at just over 5 ft tall and weighing a mere 49kg, the Hellfire Romeo packs a punch despite its size. Its high-altitude, long-endurance capabilities and semi-active laser homing guidance allow for pin-point accuracy, minimizing civilian casualties. Additionally, its adaptability extends to engaging aerial targets, offering versatility in combat scenarios.

However, this precision comes at a cost. Each Hellfire Romeo carries a hefty price tag of approximately Rs 83 lakh ($100,000). Despite this expense, the missiles offer significant advantages in terms of accuracy and target selectivity.

The SeaGuardian drones will also carry a training variant of the Hellfire missile, the M36E9 CATM, for practice purposes. Moreover, they will be equipped with 310 GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs (LSDBs), further expanding their offensive capabilities.

The inclusion of Hellfire missiles in the SeaGuardian deal signifies India’s commitment to enhancing its maritime security and deterrence capabilities. The drones’ long-range surveillance combined with the missiles’ precision strike potential presents a formidable force in protecting India’s vast coastline and maritime interests.

However, the high cost of the missiles raises concerns about long-term affordability and maintenance. Balancing operational needs with budgetary constraints will be crucial for India to optimize the effectiveness of its new drone fleet.

Overall, the acquisition of SeaGuardian drones equipped with Hellfire missiles marks a significant step forward for India’s maritime defense. While the cost factor merits consideration, the drones’ capabilities offer undeniable advantages in terms of precision, versatility, and deterrence, contributing to a more secure maritime environment for India.