An unarmed U.S. Predator drone crashed at the international airport in the Seychelles today. The United States operates a small fleet of unarmed surveillance drones out of the Seychelles to assist with countering the scourge of Somali pirates who terrorize the waters off of east Africa.
A U.S. Air Force statement said the remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper aircraft crashed at a runway at the Seychelles International Airport in Mahe this morning. "The MQ-9 was not armed and no injuries were reported," said the statement.
After the debris was removed from the runway the airport re-opened for normal traffic. The cause of the crash is unknown and is under investigation.
U.S. Africa Command has been flying drones out of the Seychelles since 2009 as part of anti-piracy measures in the Indian Ocean. The Air Force took over the mission from the Navy in September.
An Air Force official says the drones help support a range of regional security missions including maritime surveillance, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and security engagements with partner nations.
He says, "the aircraft will remain in the area as long as the government of the Seychelles welcomes the U.S. cooperation in this effort."
The drones can fly vast distances over the Indian Ocean looking for Somali pirates who often operate as hundreds of miles from the coast of Somalia.
The frequent hijackings of commercial freighters have made the waters of East Africa some of the most dangerous in the world. Ship's crews are often held for months if not years until ransoms are paid to the pirates.
Many countries, including the U.S., provide navy vessels to patrol the waters off of Somalia to prevent the pirates from seizing ships and hostages.
The surveillance flights from the Seychelles are seen as a valuable tool to expand the reach of the anti-piracy mission by helping to track the movements of Somali pirates.
Today's Reaper crash was the first ever in the Seychelles since they started flying reconnaissance missions from the remote archipelago.