MBDA's Brimstone missiles that India is procuring from the US, are known as close air support weapons and are suitable for deployment on a wide range of unmanned aerial vehicles as well as land and surface platforms

European defence major MBDA has expressed its interest in considering integration of its high-precision strike missile Brimstone onto the MQ-9B Predator armed drones that India is acquiring from the US, subject to receiving a formal proposal.

MBDA’s Brimstone missiles are known as close air support weapons and are suitable for deployment on various unmanned aerial vehicles as well as land and surface platforms.

India is currently in the process of procuring 31 MQ-9B Predator high-altitude long-endurance drones from the US with an investment of nearly USD 3 billion. This procurement aims to enhance the surveillance capabilities of the armed forces, particularly along the contested frontier with China.

“We are open to looking into any proposal for integration of Brimstone missiles onto the MQ-9B Predator drones being procured by India,” MBDA officials said in reply to a question.

The United Kingdom has already decided to load up Brimstone missiles onto the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) fleet of US-manufactured MQ-9B drones to enhance their overall capabilities.

The air dominance missile was operationally deployed in Afghanistan and Libya and it has proven to be a weapon of choice with its ability to perform surgical strikes in day and night environments, the officials said. “Brimstone is being integrated on MQ-9B and available to provide the best anti-surface strike capabilities against moving, static, maritime and armoured targets,” an MBDA spokesperson told a select group of journalists here.

Combat aircraft armed with the Brimstone weapon offer reach, speed, flexibility, precision and the ability to engage multiple targets with a single mission load, said another official.

Sources in the Indian defence and military establishment said various details relating to the procurement of the 31 MQ-9B Predator drones from the US including the cost and weapons package would be decided once the US Congress clears the deal.

It is learnt that both sides are looking at sealing the deal by March 2024.Though the cost of the drones will be finalised in the negotiation process, it is estimated that the price of the procurement would be around USD 3 billion. MBDA has played a key role in the integration of weapons packages onto two squadrons of Rafale fighter jets being operated by the Indian Air Force.

MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system are the mainstays of the weapons package of Rafale jets.

Over the last 50 years, MBDA has provided various weapons systems to the Indian armed forces including the eponymous Milan anti-tank guided missiles. It was also responsible for supplying the Magic II and Super 530 air-to-air missiles which after many years of service was replaced by MICA on the IAF’s fleet of Mirage 2000 combat jets.

The Indian Navy’s fleet of Scorpene submarines is also equipped with the world-renowned Exocet anti-ship missiles supplied by MBDA. In 2017, MBDA entered into a joint venture with India’s Larsen & Toubro with an aim to develop, manufacture and supply highly advanced missiles and missile systems to the Indian armed forces.