When I first told my friends that I was doing an internship at Seychelles Air Force (SAF), to my surprise, some of them asked if Seychelles even had an air force!
It is indeed true, that many people do not know that SAF exist or what SAF really does. During my days at SAF, I was honoured to meet the SAF Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Pouponneau who kindly welcomed us into his office and had a meeting with us. He was very friendly with us and we discussed about the daily operations of SAF and how are they helpful to our blue economy. I have always wanted to be a pilot hence the meeting with LT CL Michael Pouponneau really inspired me to pursue my goal. To top it all, he also arranged some activities for us so that we could have a better understanding of what SAF really is and what they do.
Nowadays we constantly hear about the blue economy but still many of us do not realise that in order for us to benefit from the ocean and its many resources, our Exclusive Economic Zone needs a guardian to protect it. In our case, with such a large EEZ slightly larger than the land mass of South Africa and about six times the size of the United Kingdom, we need several bodies to protect it. SAF and Coast Guard work together to help combat threats such as piracy and illegal fishing. SAF currently has 3 planes which are:
Well, SAF do not need such powers. Instead they have some state of the art radars and cameras that allow them to bring the criminals of such acts to justice through the court. Information is gathered by one of their 3 planes and data such as photos can be used to prosecute the criminals. Flying at above 5000 feet my smart phone or even my digital camera with the highest specs of optical zoom will barely see a large cargo ship navigating the rough seas below.
So how does SAF take pictures? Do they fly so low for the illegal fishing vessels to see them and stop all illegal activities before pictures are even taken? Haha, obviously no.
The Twin Otter aircraft is equipped with a high tech camera located under the aircraft nose. This is just not any camera as it has been specially made for those purposes thus it is similar to those used in military drones. But that’s not all, the Dornier aircraft is equipped with a high tech radar system which can even detect a whale or a school of fish. However aerial photography and reconnaissance is not the only ways SAF contributes but they also do patrols and when they see illegal acts in our ocean they immediately alert the Coastguard which then intervene as well. Planes are able to cover a much wider area in much less time than a boat would have taken therefore having an air force allows us to protect our blue economy in a more effective and efficient manner. Due to our large EEZ , a boat that is leaving Mahe might take days, weeks or even months to reach places such as Aldabra or Farquar while a plane can take only hours.