India bases anti-piracy aircraft on Mahe


(eTN) – Last week saw the arrival of an Indian military-operated Dornier surveillance aircraft, which will now be based at the international airport of Mahe. The Indian government had committed to provide such a brand new aircraft and two helicopters, said to be worth over US$20 million, to the Seychelles government as a measure of their support towards anti-piracy operations. However, as production and equipping the aircraft will take more time, India decided to base one of their own at the archipelago to bridge the gap, before delivering the new equipment later in 2011.

The Seychelles government has taken a tough stand on Somali-perpetrated piracy, engaged the ocean terrorists on several occasions decisively, recovered hijacked ships, and brought Seychelles citizens and other seafarers home safely, leaving no doubt that the country will continue to employ robust measures to combat the menace. The aircraft, like the recently handed over 5 high seas patrol boats given to the Seychellois armed forces by the United Arab Emirates, will boost the archipelago’s capacity to carry out surveillance and defend and protect the extensive territorial waters around the islands, extending some 200 nautical miles into the Indian Ocean.

The new plane, according to reliable information received from Victoria, is capable of flying for over 7 hours nonstop on ocean patrols and has a radius of 700 nautical miles within which it can carry out surveillance, supported by the latest electronic monitoring equipment on board. The aircraft will also be armed, allowing it to give aerial support to surface patrol boats of the Seychelles coast guard, should this be required. A group of Seychellois military staff will be trained to conduct these operations once their own plane will be delivered from the manufacturers in India.

In a tourism-related development, it was also noted that leading cruise lines are now gradually bringing their vessels back to the Seychelles for port calls, having the confidence that their approach and departure lanes are tightly controlled and help is always nearby from members of the naval coalition, as well as from the Seychelles coast guard, navy, and military aviation wing.