Exercise Cutlass Express 2023 kicks off in Seychelles

March 6, 2023: The 13th edition of Exercise Cutlass Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, was officially launched in Seychelles today by U.S. Navy Commander Lindsay Draper and U.S. Special Advisor for Seychelles James Donegan. An official opening ceremony was held at the Seychelles Defense Academy this morning. The main exercise of Exercise Cutlass Express will take place in Mauritius from March 6-17.

Exercise Cutlass Express is AFRICOM’s largest naval training exercise in the Indian Ocean. It is a multinational maritime exercise designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security, and to bring together U.S. forces and East African nations, Western Indian Ocean nations, and other international partners to share their expertise and experience.

Exercise Cutlass Express aims to improve regional cooperation in support of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, maritime domain awareness, increase tactical proficiency of participating nations to counter illicit trafficking and maritime smuggling, promote information sharing and overall cooperation among participating nations, enhance maritime security and sustain freedom of navigation and global commerce in this vital region.

This year’s exercise will last for 12 days and will include an in-port preparatory phase, followed by six days of at-sea scenarios in the Western Indian Ocean. The 14 countries participating in this year’s Exercise Cutlass Express for the East Africa region include Seychelles, Mauritius, Canada, Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Somalia, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States. A total of 320 representatives from the 14 countries, including 30 from Seychelles will be participating in the exercise in Seychelles and in the main exercise taking place in Mauritius.

The Cutlass Express in Seychelles will include interdiction, search and rescue, small boat operations, and law of the sea training modules and scenarios.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony today, Commander Draper said, “I proud I am to be a part of this international exercise. The effort and teamwork we will see on display the next two weeks is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of our forces. As a result of these exercises, Seychelles and the countries of this region will be enabled to effectively disrupt and prevent common maritime threats, increasing the security and prosperity of the entire Western Indian Ocean.”