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NEWS | March 5, 2023

Exercise Cutlass Express 2023 kicks off in Djibouti

By U.S. Naval Forces Africa Public Affairs

Maritime forces from nations around the world, along with several international organizations, kicked off the multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2023 (CE23) with an opening ceremony held at the Coast Guard Training Center in Djibouti, March 5, 2023.

CE 23, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and led by U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF), is designed to promote national and regional security in the Western Indian Ocean, increase interoperability between the U.S., African nations, and international partners, and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity in the region.

“We look forward to working together, exercising together, and strengthening maritime security, including illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” said Maj. Gen. Jami Shawley, commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. “This exercise will ensure mutual prosperity for our African partner nations, your success is our success.” 

CE23 is one of three NAVAF-facilitated regional exercises that provides collaborative opportunities for African, U.S., and international partners to address shared transnational maritime concerns. NAVAF’s ongoing maritime security cooperation with African partners focuses on maritime safety and security through increased maritime awareness, response capabilities, and infrastructure.

This exercise leverages the Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct, adopted in 2017 and used to build upon information dissemination tactics and enforcing marine rule of law. The participating nations will exercise their capabilities in disrupting illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing, and oil bunkering.

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.

This year’s exercise will be based in Djibouti, Kenya, and Mauritius, with multiple shore-based and at-sea training events along the eastern coast of Africa. Additionally, CE23 will be linked with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s International Maritime Exercise, eliminating regional seams and increasing combined global capabilities and interoperability.

“Security in East Africa, the Indian Ocean, and in Africa as a whole, matters for global stability,” said Rear Adm. Robert Nowakowski, vice commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “By deterring piracy, preventing illicit trafficking, and stopping illegal fishing, we are making the world safer. By working together, we can address these challenges in a way that no single nation can on its own.”

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa band also performed at the opening ceremony in Djibouti and plan to perform at venues across Djibouti City during the exercise.

“Music is a way that we connect as partners,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Brian Iber, commanding officer, Camp Lemonnier. “This concert series works to enrich the enduring relationship between U.S. service members at Camp Lemonnier and Djiboutians who are neighbors and a part of a larger community.”

The 14 nations scheduled to participate in CE23 include Canada, Comoros, Djibouti, France, Georgia, Greece, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The U.S. shares a common interest with African partner nations in ensuring security, safety, and freedom of navigation on the waters surrounding the continent, because these waters are critical for Africa’s prosperity and access to global markets.

AFRICOM, 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.

For more than 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.