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With three US drones, an anti-piracy “hub” in the Seychelles. 1st flights (images)

(BRUSSELS2) After talking a lot about it, here are photos of the American MQ9 Reaper drones based in the Seychelles. There will be three of them, said the Africom command during a presentation to the press. The first drone was activated in the archipelago on October 25 (read US drones are coming). « With this deployment, the signal is clear: no criminal activity will go undetected. » has explained Joel Morgan, the Minister of Transport and Fisheries, who chairs the High Level Committee on the fight against piracy.  

The first task entrusted to these drones, in fact, in addition to the classic surveillance of the Indian Ocean, the taking of photos of suspicious boats or others, will be to be able to identify a possible base, mobile or fixed, temporary or permanent, of pirates in the Seychelles islands or surrounding areas. « The use of such tool of sophisticated technology is crucial in our all-out war against piracy to control and protect an area as vast as the oceans ».

A war on piracy

The archipelago - which has 115 islands and 1,3 km2 of exclusive economic zone - is, in fact, hit hard by piracy (1)« We are threatened both by physical acts, by taking ships hostage in our exclusive economic zone and by the economic impact of piracy on the maritime sector (merchant shipping, fisheries, cruise and super yacht industries) " Explain Joel Morgan. For him, it is therefore a true “war” which fights against piracy. And this fight must take place on several levels: diplomacy, military capabilities, surveillance, information sharing, financial and human resources ». 

A “hub” for the fight against piracy

The Seychelles have been calling on the international community for help for several months. And there is a respondent. It is indeed in the Seychelles that the Europeans of Atalanta have based their maritime patrol planes provided by Luxembourg, the French their protection teams on board (French) tuna boats, already now joined by private individuals from Minimal Risk who protect Basque tuna boats (flying the flag of Seychelles, the archipelago having authorized the deployment of private guards on board the vessels). Several strengths — USA, EUNAVFOR, NATO, India, France Russia, United Kingdom and others » also carry out maritime patrols around the archipelago. The ambition is to make Seychelles a “ hub of anti-piracy monitoring and anti-piracy actions “considers Joël Morgan.

Several Sofa agreements signed or in progress

Negotiations resulted in the signing of several SOFAs (Status of Forces Agreement or force protection agreements): with the United States (in July 2009, an agreement which must be ratified in the coming days by the Seychelles assembly) , with France (in September 2009, for the presence of Protection Teams on board fishing boats), and with the European Union (le texts is ready, the principle of signature also on the EU side but there still remain some difficulties to resolve – particularly in terms of financial support from the EU -, I will come back to this). Discussions are also being held with NATO for a similar agreement. An MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was also signed with the United Kingdom.

US show of force

Drones based in the Seychelles are decommissioned. Corn " this possibility exists » specifies the US command in Africa (Africom). For the American army, this base “ provisoire » is a demonstration, both of the American presence in Africa and its desire to strengthen ties with African states and organizations in the region but also of “theeffectiveness of the use of drones in coastal and sea surveillance ».

  • Features
  • The MQ-9 Reaper is a mid-to-high altitude drone equipped with a Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine. 11 meters long, 3,8 meters high and with a wingspan of 20 meters, it can reach a cruising speed of 200 knots/hour (370 km/h), a height of 15240 meters. It has a range of 3200 nautical miles (or approximately 6000 km). It is controlled remotely by two people: the pilot and the operator, based in a ground control station (GCS). It is equipped with “robust”, color/monochrome and infrared sensors, which can also produce series image by image or video. The incorporated laser device makes it possible to precisely provide geographic coordinates.


(1) The economic impact of the arrival of pirates around the archipelago is notable. The Seychelles live mainly from fishing
(25% of the active population works in fishing) and tourism (15% of economic activity and 75% of foreign trade).

The local cannery is one of the second in the world in terms of tuna production. Since the arrival of pirates in the area, its
activity fell by half (from approximately 450 tonnes per day to 260 tonnes per day according to its Italian director whom I met on site in October).

As for maritime activity, it has fallen by 30%, according to Joel Morgan (figure given during our meeting in October in Victoria). For cruise ships, more specifically, which stopped on the island, this activity would have dropped: from one per week to one per month, according to another testimony collected on site.

The island, which had also developed an “offshore banking” activity, a also been hit hard by the global financial crisis, especially since the notion of “tax haven” is no longer very popular at the international level today and is a point of tension with the EU.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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