Plans underway for African Lion, Africa’s biggest military exercise


Militaries from the United States and Morocco met between 20 and 28 January to layout plans for the 17th episode of African Lion, scheduled for June.

Military planners surveyed training areas and converged training and readiness goals, while ensuring safeguards against COVID-19, Africa Command said.

“COVID-19 presents new challenges for us as exercise planners, but we are committed to ensuring we have the best fighting force, best partners, and everything we need for strategic access and readiness,” said Colonel Robert Perry, director of training and exercises, US Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-Africa).

Perry led the US planning team on the ground, while hundreds of other military experts participated virtually.

Established in 2002 between US Marines and the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, African Lion has a long history of bringing together US, Moroccan and other partners and allies to build interoperability, strengthen relationships and increase readiness, Africom said. US Africa Command increased its participation in the exercise in 2019 with the involvement of SETAF-Africa, from Vicenza, Italy.

“SETAF-Africa provides Africom a dedicated and ready joint task force capability,” said Brigadier General Mark Jackson, deputy commander, SETAF-Africa. “We are going to stress and test that capability in African Lion 21.”

As Africom’s largest exercise, involving thousands of troops from all US services including National Guard and Reserve elements, African Lion provides an opportunity for all participating units and nations to enhance readiness by performing their mission essential functions. This year’s iteration will involve more than 5 000 troops from the US, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and elsewhere.

“What we do in Africa matters,” Jackson said. “Not only are we building tactical unit readiness by deploying forces thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, and rehearsing sophisticated joint, all-domain operations, we are also improving on the strong foundations of friendship between Morocco and the US with an ever-increasing coalition of partners and Allies.”

Plans for African Lion 21 involve nine nations as exercise participants, with dozens of others as observers. Scheduled activities span three continents and six countries.

The exercise scenario pits this multinational coalition against a state-sponsored and supported paramilitary force with near-peer capabilities. Linked to US European Command’s Defender series exercise, African Lion exercise is designed to counter malign activity in North Africa and Southern Europe and increase interoperability between US, African, and international partners to defend the theatre from adversary military aggression, Africa Command said.