Seychelles People’s Defense Forces (SPDF)
Seychelles had a defense force of about 800 army personnel in 2008, including 300 in the presidential protection unit. The army has one infantry battalion and two artillery elements. Paramilitary forces include a National Guard consisting of 1,000 people and a coast guard estimated at 250 and divided into two divisions, the Naval Wing and Security or Infantry Division.
The Seychelles People's Defense Force (SPDF) consist of the SPLA, a people's navy, and a people's air force. In December 1992, the government amalgamated the Seychelles People's Navy and the Seychelles People's Air Force to form the Seychelles Coast Guard. Each service commander reports to the armed forces chief of staff, who is responsible to the commander in chief. The president also retains the minister of defense portfolio. The Defence Forces Council, which is chaired by the armed forces chief of staff, manages the SPDF.
The 1,000-man SPLA in the 1990s comprised one infantry battalion, two artillery troops, and one support company. The army possessed six BDRN and eight Shorland reconnaissance vehicles, four BTR-152 armored personnel carriers, three D-130 122-mm towed artillery pieces, two BM-21 122-mm multiple rocket launchers, six M-43 82- mm mortars, ten SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, and an unknown number of RPG-7 rocket launchers. The SPLA's mission included defending the nation's territorial integrity and, when necessary, assisting the People's Militia in preserving domestic law and order. Because much of its equipment requires maintenance work, the army had minimal capabilities. Western observers believe that the army would be ineffective against a professional military force.
The Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG), which was created in 1992, assumes many of the same maritime roles commonly associated with the U.S. Coast Guard. In the 1990s the navy wing of the coast guard, based in Port Victoria, owns one Topaz coastal patrol boat, one Andromache, one Zoroaster, and two Zhuk inland patrol boats, and one amphibious landing craft. The navy wing patrols the country's EEZ and conducts antidrug and search and rescue missions. The navy wing's effectiveness was extremely limited, largely because it rarely had more than two of its vessels operational at one time.
The SCG had responsibility for search and rescue for vessel incidents, environmental protection from the Port and Marine Services Division, and the counter-piracy mission in the 1.3 million square kilometer (about the size of Western Europe) exclusive economic zone. The SCG has four primary operational vessels: the Italian-built Andromache, the Indian-built Topaz, and two Spanish-built Rodman patrol crafts donated by U.A.E., each with crews of approximately 25. Most other vessels, including three of four ex-U.S. Coast Guard Motor Life Boats and the luxury yacht Gemini that was formerly used as the presidential yacht, remain non-operational due to limited manpower and the need to keep the primary vessels operational.
The 100-member air wing of the coast guard operated one Britten-Norman BN-2A Maritime Defender and a Cessna A-150 Aerobat trainer. The former aircraft, which the British government donated in 1980, patrols the EEZ, which extends over an area of almost 1 million square kilometers. The Britten-Norman, which normally operates in conjunction with patrol boats from the navy wing of the coast guard, searches for vessels conducting illegal fishing and smuggling activities. The aircraft also conducts light transport, search and rescue, and medical evacuation missions. The air wing is the most effective service with equipment in good operating condition. The air wing of the defense force separated from the Coast Guard in 1997. It does not have any dedicated aircraft, but it sometimes supplies pilots and aircrews to fly search and rescue missions. The wing’s primary duty is to train pilots. The Island Development Corporation (IDC) maintains the pool of aircraft, generating income through charter services. The aircraft inventory includes one Defender, one Cessna 150, and one Beech 1900. An Air Seychelles Twin Otter will also assist with maritime patrol and in 2012 Seychelles will receive a Hindustan Dornier patrol aircraft from India. In the meantime, the Indian Government lent Seychelles a Dornier with flight crew to provide counter-piracy patrols until the arrival of the donated Dornier. In January 2013, India presented a Dornier 228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Seychelles to help the country keep its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under better surveillance as well as guard against terrorism and piracy.
President James Michel, who is the Minister for Defence and the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, launched a new vision for the Seychelles People's Defense Forces on the occasion of Defense Forces Day November 25, 2010. The President said that the new vision, which includes a series of reforms in a 'culture of consultation,' would promote a clear sense of direction for the Forces and which will prepare Seychelles for any kind of eventuality.
The new vision will consolidate and promote cohesion, harmony and unity in the Forces andÂ ensure discipline and teamwork. "I hope that each soldiersÂ sees himself or herself in this new vision, and that each young person who has not made a career choice yet, but who has an unconditional love for his country, will also see his place and join us. Each solider will feel appreciated by his country, by his government and his superiors," said President Michel.
The President announced that a new "scheme of service" would be introduced in January 2011 which will offer higher salaries and other benefits, as well as a new pension scheme for the SPDF. The reforms of the SPDF include the modernisation of the command structure and military procedures, plans to obtain new equipment and facilities, steps to motivate and encourage soldiers in their work and give them career guidance, to give more high-level training, a new welfare plan, as well the introduction of new specialised areas of work as radar and modern communications systems.
The President also congratulated the Defense Forces for their braveÂ action in the recent anti-piracy mission, where 7 Seychellois fishermen were rescued and 16 pirates captured, and noted that the SPDF had clearly proved its raison-d'être: to defend the people of Seychelles.
"When some people were shouting "lets shut down the SPDF, Seychelles does not need a military force, Government is spending too much on the military, it's a waste of money," we saw beyond that; we, who love Seychelles, we wanted to protect this blessed people and the peace which we enjoy. This year's events alone, where we saw our men in uniform defend our territory against Somali pirates, where our men in uniform saved the lives of our Seychellois brothers, confirmedÂ to us that this government had foresight and this Government love Seychelles," said President Michel.
The Seychelles People’s Defense Forces trained in February 2016 to respond to maritime attacks and hostage rescue crises. The training is focusing on existing terrorist threats from the air, land and sea. There will be ongoing theoretical and practical exercises. At the end both parties will, together, be facing a hostage rescue scenario whereby they will have to use all means possible – the air force, coast guards and ground defense forces to free the hostages.
The two week training session was part of a bilateral collaboration between India and Seychelles. It includes 45 Indian and 57 Seychellois military personnel. India and Seychelles have been conducting the joint exercise programme called ‘Lamitye’ (the Creole word for friendship) every two years since 2001 in the island nation in the western Indian Ocean. ‘Lamitye’ is part of an agreement aimed at strengthening the two forces’ ability in carrying out counterinsurgency, counter terrorism and anti-piracy operations.
The fight against drug trafficking is the focus of the 2016 edition of a military exercise held every two years between the Seychelles and French armed forces. Nearly 150 military personnel of the SPDF and the 'Forces Armees dans la Zone Sud de L'ocean Indien,'[the French armed forces based in the South of the Indian Ocean, (FAZSOI)] took part in the 2016 'Cateau Noir' exercise. The five-day collaboration scenario involved a military intervention to dismantle a drug trafficking gang that had set up base on the west coast of Mahe, the Seychelles main Island. since 2014 the two sides decided to raise the complexity of the 'Cateau Noir exercise,' which was previously purely tactical, by introducing the command post where the officers get to prepare, command and execute the mission. 'Cateau Noir' is named after the Seychelles black parrot - an endemic bird of Seychelles.
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