US Africa Command cancels exercise Obangame Express


After careful consideration with exercise participants and host-nation countries, exercise Obangame Express 2020 has been cancelled, the US military’s Africa Command has announced.

Africom said Obangame Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.

The decision not to proceed with the exercise comes in response to the global effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), while minimizing exposure of US and partner nation service members to this virus, Africom said on 14 March.

“We continue to remain on top of the COVID-19 situation and take appropriate action to protect our troops and African partners,” said General Stephen J Townsend, commander of US Africa Command. “We may reduce in scope the size or cancel an exercise, but we will continue to lean forward to make sure troops in Africa have what they need.”

US Africa Command will continue to evaluate and adjust the scope of its activities as necessary to ensure force health protection and prevent the spread of the virus.

The Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Carney, which docked in Cape Town over the weekend, was due to take part in Obangame Express. A media tour of the vessel on Monday has been cancelled over COVID-19 concerns. Other vessels, including the Brazilian patrol vessel Amazonas, will also have to change their plans over the exercise cancellation.

Africa Command said the US routinely exercises with partners in Africa to build enduring relationships and combined capacity to ensure the safety and security of the regional maritime environment. Exercise Obangame Express is one of three African regional “Express” series exercises sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and conducted annually by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US 6th Fleet.

While this year’s exercise has been cancelled, planning continues for a senior leader seminar and Obangame Express 2021.