A U.S. military drone crashed at Seychelles airport early Tuesday morning during a routine patrol. The drone was sent to monitor piracy in the East African coast under one of its U.S. surveillance missions over Somalia. No injuries or casualties have been reported so far.
According to officials, the drone was a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper, which was neither armed nor manned. Lina Laurence, an official at the Seychelles civil aviation authority, said that soon after the aircraft took off, it developed some technical problems in its engine, due to which it needed to land immediately.
"But due to its accelerated landing speed, the aircraft was unable to stop before the runway's end," Laurence said. "It has been confirmed that this drone was unarmed and its failure was due to mechanical reasons."
The crash caused a small fire on the runway, but it was extinguished before it could cause any major damages. Laurence told the media that the runway was closed for about 10 minutes, but reopened soon after the flames were snuffed out, without interrupting any further airport operations. The debris of the wrecked plane was removed by the U.S. military with the coordination of civil aviation of Seychelles. After a brief interruption, the drone program from the Seychelles airbase near the Indian Ocean has started once again.
According to the U.S. Air Force, many of its aircrafts have been sent in the region in compliance with the U.S.-Africa Command for the purpose of regional security missions “including maritime surveillance, counterterrorism, counter-piracy and bilateral security engagements with partner nations.” According to a WikiLeaks cable, two years ago the U.S. military agreed with Seychelles President James Michel to send drones in an attempt to fight terrorism in East Africa.
Although the cause of the crash is clear, investigations will continue to aid in compiling a detailed report of the incident. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has confirmed that the crash had nothing to do with the Iranian forces. Questions about Iranian involvement were raised because Iran recently downed and seized an RQ-170 Sentinel.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers by Al-Qaeda, such drones have been used by the U.S. in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in some parts of Iraq. The drone program has recently expanded to include other, critical regions as well.