The 20 June of this year, the world was shocked by the news that the "Aerospace Force of the Guardian Body of the Islamic Revolution" (AFAGIR), the branch of the "Pasdaran" that in addition to controlling most of the assets aeri Guardians also operate drones, ballistic missiles, long-range artillery rockets, and both artillery and missile antiaircraft, had shot down an American drone. Subsequent research could identify a Northrop Grumman (BAMS-D) RQ-4 "Global Hawk" in the drone in question, one of the only 4 technological demonstrators of this type built by the United States on the model of the original Northrop Grumman RQ- 4 "Global Hawk" and assigned to the US Navy to serve as the basis for the Northrop Grumman program MQ-4C "Triton" (photo).
Although several weeks have passed since then, we must not at all believe that the event has ceased to produce its nefarious effects, which risk causing even more interesting developments in relations and partnerships in the defense world between the United States and other countries. And one of these countries is the India of Narendra Modi who has followed the whole story of killing with particular interest.
As already mentioned on other occasions, relations between the United States and India have always been very complicated, although the English language apparently unites the two large countries on a superficial level. What divides them are national interests of a conflicting nature in relation to India's claim to become the "Lady of the Indian Ocean" and of the United States to remain the only "dominus" of all the waters of the globe. The fact is that, despite a common history of colonies in Great Britain, and though both are still deeply linked to it, in the last few years the two countries have done nothing but study each other at a safe distance with circumspection, when not to look openly at cagnesco (it is the case, for example, of the "almost war" that opposed the two countries in the 70 when the Americans threatened to openly intervene in support of Pakistan, to then quickly turn around).
A consequence of this state of affairs is that, although the United States is still today the main producer and exporter of arms and India has already been the main importer for decades, Indians have always avoided the plague to conclude important orders with the United States and, even when this taboo has started to fall since the 90 years of the last century, the volume and total value of the orders that New Delhi has concluded with Washington have always remained contained and have never affected so-called sectors "strategic".
A notable exception to this policy was the signing, in 2009, of a contract to purchase 12 Boeing P-8I "Poseidon" for a cost of 2,1 billion dollars. These massive air and sea patrol aircraft were destined to replace the venerable 8 Tupolev Tu-142MK-E "Bear" which entered service in the distant 1988 and then finally expired in the 2017 at the end of an excellent career duration 29 years. In June this year, the Indian navy opted for the signing of a new contract from 3 billion dollars for the purchase of additional 10 aircraft, which should bring the P-8I fleet to the total of 22.
Parallel to the introduction of the "Poseidon", and being already equipped with an autonomous constellation of reconnaissance satellites of national conception, the Indian navy decided to further expand its strategic recognition capabilities by adopting a large UAV platform capable of sharing a considerable amount of information both with other naval or aerial platforms of the navy and with the assets of the aeronautics and ground forces. After a long period of evaluations and exhausting negotiations, the Hindu superpower's military leadership finally decided to opt for the aforementioned Northrop Grumman MQ-4C "Triton".
The original discussions spoke of 6-8 aircraft to be used as a complement to the "Poseidons" but the subsequent decision to expand the fleet of the "Poseidons" also led to an exponential increase in the order for the "Tritons" who reached to touch altitude 30 for the "fantastic" figure of 6 billion dollars. To put it in perspective we must remember that the original contract signed by India and Russia in the 1999 for the production under license of 140 Sukhoi Su-30 MKI from HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) was worth 3,2 billion dollars, while the recent contract for the supply of five regiments of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles is worth 5,43 billion dollars.
It seemed that the United States had come to close the deal of the century but the events held on June 20 off the coast of Iran completely disrupted a canvas that seemed perfect. First of all, the (BAMS-D) RQ-4 "Global Hawk" shot down by the Iranians (with performances broadly comparable to those of the MQ-4C "Triton") would have shown a catastrophic propensity to fall victim to jamming opponent. Secondly, the fact that to knock down the massive drone the Iranians used a "3 of Khordad" missile battery belonging to the missile system of national conception "Raad" which, although new and of relatively modern conception is absolutely not the anti-missile system - more powerful aircraft supplied to the military forces of Iran, has seriously questioned the effectiveness of self-protection systems that should still guarantee the ability to operate in the opposing airspace with relative impunity to the slow and bulky drones.
For the Indians then, the shower was doubly cold because, in order to protect the secrets of some classified electronic components, the Americans had proposed to provide them with not the original version, but a degraded under version of the MQ-4C ‚ÄúTriton ‚ÄĚCharacterized by reduced performance compared to those for the USAF and US Navy versions. This is of particular importance for India because the operational scenarios that had been taken into consideration for the "Triton" included long lasting patrols and without support on the skies of Pakistan and China. However, it should be noted that both China and Pakistan are endowed with first-rate anti-aircraft defenses centered on a plethora of systems among which the HQ-16 has been particularly talked about in recent times.
If the use of original versions of the "Global Hawk" and the "Triton" has led to the occurrence of a bitter lesson against an opponent such as Iran, an array of "degraded Tritons" by India in the skies of his two mortal enemies seriously risks to turn into a disaster with the consequent loss of billions of dollars and a serious degradation of the reconnaissance / command / control capacities that are fundamental for the carrying out of military operations in the modern war.
To understand the importance that the specific strategic reconnaissance operations had and still have for India, it is enough to remember that the Hindu giant was one of the few countries in the world to receive permission, in the 1981 from the then Soviet Union, to buy the Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-25 "Foxbat", the fastest plane ever deployed in the world. Renamed in the Indian aviation jargon "Garuda" (legendary servant bird of the god Vishnu), the Indian Mig-25 were purchased in exemplary 8 (6 belonging to the RBK and 2 version in the UK) and intensively used during the following 25 years ( until their withdrawal in 2006) in high-risk strategic reconnaissance missions both to Pakistan and China, registering a single loss due to a mechanical failure and never ever being shot down or damaged by the reaction of air and air forces enemy.
Needless to say, not a few in India today are nostalgic for the old "Foxbat", and after the events of 20 June the country began to distance itself considerably from the "Triton" project and it is very likely that it will soon announce its complete cancellation , without prejudice to a possible coup de scene so frequent in Hindu tenders.
Predictable were the American reactions, however, kept at a safe distance from the Indian premier Modi who, although from a personal point of view he does not disdain the idea of ‚Äč‚Äča greater partnership with the United States, he must at the same time take into consideration the requests of a military caste that absolutely does not want to be taken for a ride and an electorate that after the border clashes in recent months is furious that, even today, the United States is supplying Pakistan with "American weapons that are used to kill Indians".
As this tug-of-war on the future of the "Tritons" will end, this is premature to say; however it is really ironic to think that, when the 20 of June the "Pasdaran" anti-aircraft missile batteries decided to "teach the USA a lesson", the practical result of this event was that, to be "knocked down", not it was just a "drone" but the entire Indian-American collaboration project.
Photo: Northrop Grumman Corporation / US Navy / FARS News Agency / web