Cutlass Express 21 multinational maritime exercise begins in Mombasa

Several maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe, North America, and several international organizations has arrived Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa, Kenya for the opening ceremony of the annual multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2021 (CE21).

Exercise Cutlass Express began on July 26, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet, will help counter non-state maritime actors while improving security and prosperity on the continent.

“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 Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. “These partnerships allow us to better counter malign actors while improving security and prosperity on the continent.”

Exercise Cutlass Express 21 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.

The 2021 edition of the exercise Cutlass Express 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 Brig. Thomas N. 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 (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.

Africom commander Stephen Townsend during the start of Cutlass Express 21.

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 21 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, African Lion in Tunisia, 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. “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.”

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.

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