Skip to main content

U.S.-China proxy war continues as India receives U.S. Predator drones

India has received two U.S. Predator drones for its Navy in an emergency leasing plan as tensions continue to rise with neighboring China in the region of Ladakh. The addition of the two U.S.-made drones is continuing what looks to be a U.S. proxy war with China.

The drones will reportedly fly with the Indian Navy logo and be full operated by the Indian Navy. All the data captured by the drones is also expected to go to the country as well.

India has been able to lease the two drones for a year from General Atomics, which produces the drones. The company is expected to have no other role in the drones other than ensuring two are available for India to use. General Atomics currently has a team in India performing maintenance on the two drones.

A senior officer has shared the following on the two drones:

“The two drones are the unarmed versions and have been inducted into flying operations on 21 November at Indian Navy base at INS Rajali. The drones arrived in India earlier this month.”

There is a chance for more drones to be deployed by India if the experience with them is positive.

“It all depends on the experience of these two drones. We are right now going to operate these two.”

As the drones are American, this move can be seen as somewhat of a passive move against China, as the two haven’t been getting along recently. There’s no doubt that China will be watching what the U.S. continues to do with other countries, especially those currently having issues with it.

MQ-9 Reaper

The MQ-9 Reaper, commonly known as the Predator B, has a maximum flight speed of 300 miles per hour and a cruising speed of 194 miles per hour. The drone can stay in the air for up to 14 hours when fully loaded, thanks to the Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engineer pumping out 900 horsepower.

The Reaper can hold a combined payload weight of 3,800 pounds, with 800 pounds of it being stored internally and the other 3,000 pounds external. The drone has seven hardpoints that allow various ammunitions to be mounted to it and can accommodate a maximum of four Hellfire missiles and two Paveway 2 laser-guided bombs.


The IAI Heron drone, which India uses, has a wingspan of 54 feet 6 inches and a capacity of 551 pounds. The drone uses a Rotax 914 four-cylinder engine producing 115 horsepower. Heron has a maximum speed of 129 miles per hour and can stay in the air for up to 52 hours at a time. Fourteen countries, including the US and Australia, have used the Heron drones.

The Indian army also uses a smaller drone from IAI, the Searcher. It has a payload capacity of 150 pounds and a wingspan of 28 feet. The drone uses a less powerful Limbach L 550 engine that only produces 47 horsepower. The searcher can fly at a maximum speed of 125 miles per hour for 18 hours at a time.


China is currently using its own custom-built drones to monitor the borders: the CAIG Wing Loong II or GJ-2 drone. The GJ-2 has a wingspan of 67 feet 3 inches and has a maximum takeoff of 9,259 pounds. The drone has a maximum speed of 230 miles per hour and can stay in the air for 32 hours at a time.

It is also believed that China is using its own CH-4 drone and the BZK-005C with a payload capacity of 331 pounds, a cruise speed of 93-112 miles per hour, and a flight duration of 40 hours.

Photo: U.S. Air Force



Avatar for Josh Spires Josh Spires

Josh started in the drone community in 2012 with a drone news Twitter account. Over the years Josh has gained mass exposure from his aerial photography work and spends his days writing drone content for DroneDJ as well as pursuing his business.