13th Cutlass Express US military exercise kicks off in Seychelles, Mauritius and Kenya

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

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Seychelles and other countries in the western Indian Ocean are set to learn how to disrupt and prevent common maritime threats through a multinational military exercise called Cutlass Express launched on Monday.

Led by the United States Naval Forces Africa, the 13th Cutlass Express taking place from March 6-17 was officially launched in Seychelles by U.S. Navy Commander Lindsay Draper and U.S. Special Adviser for Seychelles James Donegan.

Fourteen countries from the region are participating in the exercise with a total of 320 representatives, including 30 Seychellois.  

The Lieutenant Colonel and Commanding Officer of the Special Forces Unit in Seychelles, Archil Mondon, told SNA that “there are three simultaneous exercises taking place in Seychelles, Mauritius and Kenya, with varying numbers of Seychellois officers taking part in each exercise.”

He said 15 Seychellois will be doing the exercise in Mauritius, four in Kenya and over 10 are in Seychelles. In the Seychelles’ exercise there will be other participants alongside the military personnel including the police.

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

Around 30 Seychellois are participating in the 13th Cutlass Express. (Seychelles Defence Forces) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

At the launch event in Seychelles, U.S. Navy Commander Draper said, “I am proud 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.”

The commander added that “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.”

This year’s Cutlass Express will include an in-port preparatory phase, followed by six days of at-sea scenarios in the western Indian Ocean.

Seychelles, a group of 115 islands spread over an exclusive economic zone of 1.4 million square kilometres, finds it difficult to deter and suppress illegal activities at sea, due to its immense maritime space.

The island nation signed a bilateral agreement, the first of its kind, with the United States in July 2021, effectively allowing U.S. naval forces to work on Seychelles’ military vessels and vice versa in maritime operations to help to protect its territorial waters.

Cutlass Express is a maritime exercise that takes place every year to promote national and regional maritime security in East Africa and the western Indian Ocean. The exercise is designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security and increase interoperability between the regional navies.

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