African Lion 21 exercise begins with 7 800 troops in Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal


African Lion, US Africa Command’s premier joint annual exercise, kicked off in Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal for its 17th iteration on 7 June.

With more than 7 000 participants from nine nations and NATO, African Lion is US Africa Command’s largest exercise. The training is focused on enhancing readiness for US and partner nation forces, the Command said.

“African Lion 2021 is US Africa Command’s premier, joint and multi-national annual exercise. African Lion is an excellent example of the United States’ long-term commitment to Africa and recognition of Africa’s strategic importance to the United States,” said US Africa Command commander, US Army General Stephen Townsend.

African Lion 21 is a multi-domain, multi-component, and multi-national exercise, which will employ a full array of mission capabilities with the goal to strengthen interoperability among partner nations and enhance the ability to operate in the African theatre of operations, according to Africa Command.

“This exercise is all about readiness. Readiness of our partners, and readiness of our forces. It brings together various ideas, experiences, and capabilities – ultimately making us stronger partners and a more capable multi-national force,” said Townsend.

African Lion activities are spread across Morocco, from Kenitra Air Base in the north to Tan Tan and the Grier Labouihi training complex further south. Activities are also occurring in Senegal and Tunisia.

An air training exercise, coordinated by the US Air Forces Europe and Africa, will feature US and Moroccan air manoeuvres including bombers, fighters and aerial refuelling.

Naval manoeuvres include a naval gunfire exercise and multiple sea-based manoeuvres involving US and Moroccan navies and crisis response capabilities.

US Air Force Airmen from the Utah Air National Guard will conduct a humanitarian civic assistance event in Morocco. Utah is partnered with Morocco as part of US Africa Command’s State Partnership Program. There are 15 African nations in the State Partnership Programme.

“African Lion is key in building and strengthening partnerships in the region,” said Townsend. “It provides an opportunity for mutual learning between the US and our African partners and benefits participants by strengthening interoperability and collective efforts towards enhancing security and stability throughout the region.”

In Senegal, US and Senegalese militaries will demonstrate their combined capability to rapidly deploy and integrate in response to a crisis.

In Tunisia, US and Tunisian Armed Forces will conduct command post exercises and small unit tactical training.

The importance of training and ability to learn how to operate in a COVID-19 environment made African Lion 21 a priority.

“COVID-19 has not changed our focus on engaging with our Africa partners. Due to last year’s cancellation of African Lion, we had a head start in planning this year’s exercise,” said Townsend. “We understand how important this training is to our forces and our partners and how to better operate in a degraded COVID environment. We will ensure successful training while taking necessary COVID-19 precautionary measures in order to do so.”

The US Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, assumed lead responsibility of exercise African Lion in 2019 from the US Marine Corps.