Maritime security exercise Cutlass Express 21 begins


Maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe, North America, and several international organizations began the multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2021 with an opening ceremony at the Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa, Kenya, on 26 July.

“Partnerships are the key to stability in Africa. Exercises like Cutlass Express bring like-minded partners together, spark discussion and collaboration, and help generate African-led solutions,” said General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command. “These partnerships allow us to better counter malign actors while improving security and prosperity on the continent.”

Curlass Express 21, sponsored by US Africa Command and led by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, US Sixth Fleet, 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, Africa Command said.

This year’s exercise leverages 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 will be testing their ability to counter illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, as well as search and rescue situations.

“The Western Indian Ocean has been rife with many maritime challenges for a prolonged period of time due to the porous vast sea area,” said Brigadier Thomas Nganga, Kenya Navy base commander, Mtongwe. “Through cooperation, sharing of information and combined training among the local bilateral and multilateral cooperation, there has been tremendous improvement in maritime security.”

The exercise will improve Maritime Domain Awareness, information sharing between Maritime Operation Centres, maritime interdiction, adherence to the rule of law, and counter-proliferation interdiction capabilities in order to strengthen safety and security in East Africa.

The exercise begins with an in-port training period followed by at-sea scenarios and concludes with a senior leadership symposium. The underway portion of the exercise tests the ship’s abilities to conduct maritime interdiction operations by boarding teams against simulated suspect vessels, detecting illicit activity, and follow-on evidence collection procedures.

The valuable operational experience gained during Cutlass Express contributes to participating countries’ ability to suppress and counter illegal activities, including piracy, arms trafficking, human smuggling, drug trafficking, and illegal trade in wildlife, Africa Command said.

Cutlasss Express 21 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 program Africa Partnership Station as part of a phased approach to building enduring relationships and combined capacity to ensure the safety and security of the regional maritime environment, Africa Command said.

“We look forward to the start of Cutlass Express as we strengthen our mil-mil relationships and continue to build regional partnerships,” said US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Reserve Detachment 118 Commanding Officer, Captain Cannon Neslen. “CE21 provides an increased opportunity to demonstrate interoperability among African, European, West Indian Ocean, and US maritime forces and to improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity and maritime security.”

Participating nations in Cutlass Express 2021 include Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States.