Exercise Cutlass Express 2022 concludes


Maritime partners from 60 nations and international organizations concluded Exercise Cutlass Express on 17 February.

More than 9 000 personnel and nearly 50 ships operating across two regions participated in the International Maritime Exercise (IMX)/Cutlass Express (CE) 2022. The event was also the largest unmanned exercise in the world, involving more than 80 unmanned systems from 10 nations, the United States Navy (USN) said.

“IMX/CE 2022 provided a unique opportunity to navies from across the globe, maritime organizations and communities to demonstrate global resolve to preserve the rules-based international order,” said Pakistan Navy Commodore Vaqar Muhammad, deputy commander of the exercise.

Training evolutions during the combined exercise spanned across the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and North Indian Ocean. Participating naval forces divided into four geographical combined task forces led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya, and Oman.

“These skills, developed during IMX/CE 2022, can make a lasting impact on regional security,” said Rear Admiral Jeffrey Spivey, vice commander of US Sixth Fleet and director, maritime partnership programme, NAVEUR-NAVAF. “The work we have done here can directly contribute to our combined ability to ensure freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”

IMX/CE 2022 incorporated training operations on mine countermeasures; visit, board, search, and seizure; and mass casualty response, among others. The exercise established a combined task force to incorporate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence. IMX/CE 2022 included flight training and ship gunnery and passing exercises, and an international senior leadership summit before concluding with the closing ceremony.

Major Khalid Al Ali of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, who served at the exercise’s operations centre in Bahrain, praised IMX/CE 2022 for bringing so many partner naval forces together to train. “We found new ways to upgrade our capabilities and use our equipment in real world conditions,” he said.

The commercial shipping industry also participated. IMX/CE 2022 set up a joint shipping coordination centre led by a multinational team to interface between naval and merchant vessels.

Commander Jeorn Loeffler of the German Navy, a shipping coordination team member, praised the unity among participants. “We are united from every continent, and we are united at sea,” he said.

IMX/CE 2022 was the seventh iteration of IMX since its establishment in 2012.

Cutlass Express 2022 commenced with an opening ceremony on 6 February. The exercise, sponsored by US Africa Command and led by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet (NAVEUR-NAVAF/C6F), assesses and improves combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promotes national and regional security in East Africa, and increases interoperability between the US, African nations, and international partners, the organisers said. CE22 was linked with US Naval Forces Central Command’s International Maritime Exercise (IMX), eliminating regional seams and increasing US global capabilities and interoperability.

This year’s exercise leveraged the recently adopted Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct, which 14 nations are signatories, as a framework for exercising information sharing practices and enforcing marine rule of law. The participating nations tested their ability to detect or disrupt illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, as well as search and rescue situations.

CE 22 is one of three US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet -facilitated regional exercises undertaken to provide African forces and international partners with collaborative opportunities on comprehensive maritime security concerns.

Exercises like Cutlass Express in East Africa/Western Indian Ocean, Obangame Express in the Gulf of Guinea, and Phoenix Express in the Mediterranean fall under the international collaborative maritime capacity-building programme Africa Partnership Station (APS) as part of a phased approach to building enduring relationships and combined capacity to ensure the safety and security of the regional maritime environment.

Participating nations in Cutlass Express 2022 included Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States. Interpol, the US Coast Guard, the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Department of Justice, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also participated in the exercise.