Maritime forces from Eastern Africa, Western Indian Ocean island nations, Europe and the United States, as well as several international organizations, concluded the fifth iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express on 6 February.
Cutlass Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness (MDA) and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
“This year’s Cutlass Express was a true success. We observed great team work as visit, board, search and seizure teams boarded ships searched for illicit activity and leveraged tactics and procedures. The lessons learned from these events will bring forth greater success in the future,” said Rear Admiral Thomas Reck, vice commander, U.S. 6th Fleet; Director, Maritime Partners Programs U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
“Despite our struggle with piracy and the hardship it brought about especially us in Seychelles there has been lots of lessons learned. Thanks to the coordinated effort and partnership of numerous stake-holders we have seen a decline in piracy incidents and things are almost back to normal,” said Chief of Defense Forces of the Seychelles People’s Defense Forces, Brigadier Leopold Payet.
Cutlass Express scenarios tested watchstanders’ ability to respond to illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, and search and rescue situations. Scenarios took place in the vicinity of two operational hubs: Djibouti and Port Victoria.
The exercise, which lasted eight days, included an in-port preparatory phase and three days of underway drills. Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) of participating nations exercised tracking and reporting procedures of simulating suspect vessels. The exercise leveraged The Djibouti Code of Conduct, which 20 nations are signatory to, as a framework for exercising information sharing practices and enforcing international law of the sea.
Scenarios focused on the globally recognized Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) allowing endorsing nations to develop capabilities to detect and disrupt the delivery of materials used to build and develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) facilitated a new 3-day seminar with Cutlass Express participating nations to promote the development of national maritime strategies and the development of operational concepts and capabilities to operationalize maritime strategy.
Exercise Cutlass Express is one of three Africa-focused regional “Express” series exercises facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F). The exercise falls under Africa Partnership Station, the umbrella program for the Express series exercises and other capacity-building initiatives throughout Africa.
Participating nations in Cutlass Express 2016 included Australia, Canada, Comoros, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as representatives from the Eastern Africa Standby Force, EU Naval Force, International Maritime Organization (IMO), and Combined Task Force 150.