Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wire: US to Base Drones in Seychelles to Fight Piracy

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that the United States is planning to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles in the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks to combat piracy. The use of land-based drones is a new approach to deter ship hijackings in the region.

The spokesman for the U.S. military's Africa Command, Vince Crawley, says several Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles will be in the Seychelles by late October or November. He says they will be used to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions throughout the Indian Ocean region, VOA News reported.

"We have people going in individually for very short trips right now. We plan to start sending some of the teams that will assist in the September-October time frame. And then it would take a month to begin the flights," said Crawley. "It is widely recognized that western Indian Ocean piracy is extremely disruptive to international trade and this is simply a U.S. contribution to the international effort against piracy."

VOA noted that Reapers are designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance, capable of staying in the air for 30 hours and flying at speeds of more than 440 kilometers an hour. They can also carry weapons and ordinance, but African Command says the drones being deployed in the Seychelles will not be armed.

The U.S. Navy has long used ship-based unmanned aerial vehicles in counter-piracy missions. But the UAVs in the Seychelles will be housed at the international airport in the capital Mahe. Dozens of American military and civilian personnel will also be based at the airport to oversee the Navy-led mission for the next several months.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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