NEWS | July 26, 2021

Seychelles holds opening ceremony for Exercise Cutlass Express 21

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs

(July 26, 2021) Maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe, North America, and several international organizations began the multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2021 (CE21) with an opening ceremony held at the Seychelles Coast Guard Academy in Victoria, Seychelles, July 26, 2021.

Rear Adm. Jeffrey Spivey, Director, Maritime Partnership Program, U.S. Naval Force Europe-Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet, delivered remarks during the ceremony and spoke about the core aims of strengthening partnerships.

“When we participate in exercises like Cutlass Express, we not only share great experiences, we also learn valuable lessons as we communicate challenges and work to implement solutions,” Spivey said.

CE 21, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet, assesses and improves combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promotes national and regional security in East Africa, and increases interoperability between the U.S., African nations and international partners. 

Spivey also commended the participating nations presence at the exercise.

“Your presence in this year’s Cutlass Express demonstrates the commitment from so many leaders around the region to build long-term security and stability in the maritime domain and beyond,” Spivey said. “Such commitment is inspiring. On behalf of Naval Force Europe, I am proud to be working alongside so many professional and dedicated partners.”

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.

Cutlass Express will improve Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), information sharing between Maritime Operation Centers (MOCs), 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 (MIO) by boarding teams against simulated suspect vessels, detecting illicit activity, and follow-on evidence collection procedures.

“Since its initiation, I can confidently say, that Cutlass Express exercise has been the most successful and highly anticipated multi-lateral exercise of its kind conducted in this region and in our country," said  Lt. Colonel Jean Attala from the Seychelles Coast Guard. "This why, we have always looked forward to it, and ensure that we participate actively and support it to the fullest, and for that we remain forever grateful to the U.S military, the U.S. Navy Sixth fleet in particular, and the various European partners and collaborators, who have always ensured that we have a well-planned and well executed exercise."

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.

"The theoretical training and the practical underway exercises plan for Cutlass 2021 will without doubt improve the capabilities of the participants and enhance interoperability between participating agencies and nations alike,”  Attala said.

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 (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.

"We look forward to the start of Cutlass Express (CE21) as we strengthen our mil-mil relationships and continue to build regional partnerships," said U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Reserve Detachment 118 Commanding Officer, Capt. Cannon Neslen.

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.

"CE21 provides an increased opportunity to demonstrate interoperability among African, European, West Indian Ocean, and U.S. maritime forces and to improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity and maritime security," Neslen said.

U.S. Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is one of 11 U.S. Department of Defense combatant commands, each with a geographic or functional mission that provides command and control of military forces in peace and war. AFRICOM employs the broad-reaching diplomacy, development, and defense approach to foster interagency efforts and help negate the drivers of conflict and extremism in Africa.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.