Exercise Cutlass Express 2023 kicks off in Djibouti

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 on 5 March.

US Navy
Credit: US Navy

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.

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.”