South African and US Marine forces will this August exercise jointly in Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth in the latest iteration of the American “Share Accord” exercises.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu says in a written answer to a Parliamentary question asked by Congress of the People Member of Parliament LJ Tolo that Exercise Shared Accord has been included in the multinational military force exercise programme for 2011/12 “and will be conducted within the allocated budget. The inclusion of Ex Shared Accord is a result of a consultation that took place between the SANDF and the specific partner premised on an existing Defence Committee Agreement.”
Shared Accord is one of 14 annual multinational exercises the US conducts on the continent, and one of two involving South Africa, according to an Africa Command fact sheet. The other exercise is Southern Warrior, a “small unit regional training exercise tailored to specific unit and country needs to build regional cooperation. Slated for the South African winter and spring, US AFRICOM supports the deployment phase of the exercise. Shared Accord, meanwhile, “trains US and African forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in sub-Saharan Africa,” the fact sheet adds.
Last year’s edition of Shared Accord took place in neighbouring Mozambique’s southern Moamba province. A Mozambique defence ministry news release last August stated that Shared Accord, that took place that month, was designed “to strengthen Mozambique’s peacekeeping operations capacities and emergency humanitarian assistance techniques. According to the UPI news service, some 1000 US service personnel and Mozambican soldiers participated.”Hundreds of members of both our armed forces will participate together in various types of military training, including command post, live-fire training, and peace operations, as well as sharing their experience,” the UPI quoted Lt. Col. Andrew Olson, defence attaché at the US Embassy in Maputo as saying. “We are confident that this exercise will help develop Mozambique’s capabilities to offer additional security for its neighbours, keep Mozambique itself more free from threats to its own security, such as illegal fishing, trafficking in drugs or other illegal activities, or even the threat of piracy, and enhance its ability to effectively fight against poverty here at home.”
Previous editions of Shared Accord have been hosted by Benin, Ghana and Senegal. Bilateral military exercises involving SA and the US are somewhat uncommon because of political attitudes in the former, but are not as rare as may be thought. A battalion of US Rangers deployed to De Brug, Bloemfontein,in July 2003 for Flintlock 2003 with the SA Army’s 44 Parachute Regiment. The July, US forces returned for Exercise Medflag 2004 at Hoedpruit Air Force Base in Mpumalanga. The exercise involved some 250 US Air Force personnel conducting various evolutions including interoperability training, humanitarian and civic assistance visits, as well as a mass-casualty exercise with the SA Military Health Service and SA Air Force.
“Passage exercises” with passing and visiting US warships are more common and SA has reportedly also joined the African Partnership Station (APS), a US-led effort to improve maritime security along the African east and west coasts. APS training focuses on a broad range of areas, including maritime law enforcement, search and rescue capabilities, civil engineering and logistics, and navigation.
The most visible recent visit was that of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) to Cape Town in October 2008. The Roosevelt’s visit was the first by a US aircraft carrier since the 1950s and the first to Cape Town by a nuclear-powered ship since the German cargo ship the Otto Hahn in the 1970s. This as followed up in January the next year by the visit of the USS Robert G Bradley, an Oliver Hazard Perry glass guided missile frigate assigned to the APS programme, in July by the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), nameship of a class of destroyers to Durban and Simon’s Town and that November by the visit of the Los Angeles-class nuclear powered attack submarine USS San Juan (SSN-751), also to Simon’s Town.
More recently, the USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29), a Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate visited Simon’s Town in February this year and participated in a “joint-manoeuvring exercise” with the Heroine-class submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke (S-102).
Other US AFRICOM training exercises completed, underway or scheduled this year include:
AFRICAN LION (Morocco) – An annual combined US-Moroccan exercise focusing on joint and combined air and land combat interoperability missions. (May-June)
AFRICA ENDEAVOUR (The Gambia/Mali) – Annual communications exercise focusing on interoperability and information sharing among African partners with the goal of developing command, control, and communication tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be used by the African Union in support of peacekeeping operations. (late June)
ATLAS DROP (Uganda) – Combined joint logistics exercise highlighting logistics planning and airborne resupply. (April)
CUTLASS EXPRESS (Indian Ocean) – An exercise training U.S. Special Operations Forces in tactical humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations. (winter)
FLINTLOCK (Senegal) – An annual exercise training small units in Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara partner nations in Northern and Western Africa. (February)
MEDFLAG (Ghana) – Multinational training to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces operating in central Africa. (August-September)
MEDLITE (DRC) – Multinational training to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces operating in central Africa. (May)
MEDREACH (Malawi) – Multinational training to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces operating in central Africa. (May)
NATURAL FIRE(Tanzania) – Multinational military exercise focusing on humanitarian aid/disaster response with East African nations. (August)
OBANGAME EXPRESS (Gulf of Guinea) – Training and exercise conducted by US Naval Forces Africa focusing on maritime interdiction operation and visit, board, search, and seizure techniques. (March)
PHOENIX EXPRESS (Mediterranean region) – US and European partners conduct exercises with North African maritime and land forces to increase regional maritime awareness and improve maritime security. (April-May)
WESTERN ACCORD (Senegal) Small unit infantry procedures, staff training and humanitarian assistance. (June-July)
The US Central Command, will meanwhile conduct Exercise Bright Star with Egyptian forces in September and October. Bright Star takes place every two years.