By U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs
Maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe, North America, and several international organizations began the multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2022 (CE22) with an opening ceremony held at the Coast Guard Training Center in Djibouti, Feb. 6, 2022.
CE 22, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet (NAVEUR-NAVAF/C6F), assesses and improves combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security in East Africa, and increases interoperability between the U.S., African nations, and international partners. CE22 will be linked with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s International Maritime Exercise (IMX), eliminating regional seams and increasing U.S. global capabilities and interoperability.
“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, and drug trafficking,” said Jonathan Pratt, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti. “Our participation together over the next 12 days is key to help us strengthen our relationships and recommit to the principles that guide this partnership—adherence to rule of law and the capacity to disrupt illicit maritime activity.
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 detect or disrupt illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, as well as search and rescue situations.
The exercise 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 disrupt illicit maritime activity and 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.
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.
CE 22 is one of three U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 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 (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.
“International Maritime Exercise 2022 and Cutlass Express 2022 will play a critical role in the ongoing development of regional cooperation in support of the Djibouti Code of Conduct and improving information sharing and maritime domain awareness among the 12 participating nations,” said Capt. Cannon Neslen, Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Maritime Partnership Program, U.S. Navy Reserve Detachment 118.
Participating nations in Cutlass Express 2022 include Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and United States. Interpol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are also participating in the exercise.
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.
“Coming together to coordinate our capabilities throughout the maritime domain not only breeds regional security and stability,” said Capt. David Family, Commanding Officer, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. “It gives us a chance to deepen our partnerships and cultivate new ones moving forward.”
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.