February 23, 2012: India has agreed to build a coastal radar system for the island nation of Seychelles, as well as providing a Dornier 228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft to help in dealing with Somali pirates. Two years ago India and Seychelles agreed to a deal where an Indian Dornier 228 would operate from the Seychelles. Originally, India had offered to give Seychelles a Dornier 228 and two Chetak helicopters for anti-piracy duty but tiny Seychelles preferred that India simply operate this equipment on their territory until the Somali piracy threat is gone. But the pirates aren't going away, so the Seychelles is looking for a longer term solution. India has also sent a naval patrol boat and a Chetak helicopter to the Seychelles to help with anti-piracy patrol, while Indian warships are also coming by more frequently. India has also pledged millions of dollars-worth of other military aid for the Seychelles. The Indian generosity is also encouraged by Chinese use of the Seychelles for refueling and resupplying its warships coming from and going to anti-piracy patrol duty off Somalia.
The Seychelles islands have a total population of 85,000 and no military power to speak of. They are largely defenseless against pirates. So are many of the ships moving north and south off the East Coast of Africa. Four years ago Somali pirates began operating as far east as the Seychelles, which are a group of 115 islands 1,500 kilometers off the east African coast. India is making this effort because the Somali pirates are a threat to Indian shipping and the Seychelles are a neighbor it wants to remain on good terms with. India has also pledged $5 million in other military aid for the Seychelles as well.
The Dornier 228 is a German passenger aircraft that India builds under license. It is a 6.6 ton, twin turboprop aircraft that the Indian Coast Guard uses for maritime reconnaissance and is equipped with a surface search radar. India has 24 of these recon models.
The U.S. is already operating Reaper UAVs and P-3 maritime patrol aircraft on the Seychelles to search for Somali pirates operating in the area. The 4.7 ton Reaper has a max speed of 400 kilometers an hour but cruises at closer to 300. Reaper, by carrying no weapons at all, can stay in the air for over 24 hours at a time. The U.S. Air Force sent 75 airmen to the Seychelles to maintain the two or three Reapers that were based there. The operators, based in the United States, control the Reapers via a satellite link. This was the first time the Reaper was used for maritime reconnaissance. These Reapers can spot ships below night and day and has cameras that can zoom in on any ship or speedboat for a detailed video close up. A P-3 aircraft can only stay in the air for half as long as a Reaper but carries more sensors and weapons. A P-3 also requires a larger ground crew and more maintenance after each flight.