AGADIR, Morocco — The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces, a joint planning team from the United States alongside planners from 13 different nations met to conduct the main planning event for exercise African Lion 2024, here, Jan. 29 – Feb. 03, 2024.
2024 marks the 20th anniversary of U.S. Africa Command's premier and largest annual combined, joint exercise African Lion. This year’s exercise will take place April 19 through May 31 and is hosted across Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia with more than 7,100 participants from over twenty nations, including contingents from NATO. African Lion 24 will focus on enhancing readiness between the U.S. and partner nation forces.
This multi-component, multinational exercise will showcase a full array of capabilities in the land, air, maritime, and cyberspace domains including HIMARs-HIRAIN employment, airborne operations, medical treatment missions and more, with the goal to strengthen interoperability among participants and showcase the ability to establish operational readiness.
"There is a vast level of cooperation and shared understanding between the U.S. and our African Partners that makes this exercise successful every year," said U.S. Army Col. Ranjini Danaraj, the director of operations for SETAF-AF. "With such a diverse group of nations, it is important that the planning process is deliberate and comprehensive to ensure the training meets our units' and partner's training objectives," said Danaraj.
Since its inception in 2004, African Lion has continued to grow in size and scope. Reflecting the growth over previous years, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia each hosted field training exercises at military installations within their respective countries in 2023. This year, they will again host expanded training which incorporates host nation forces and pan-African partners, training alongside joint U.S. personnel including Soldiers from the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade. Additionally, humanitarian civic assistance missions will feature a combination of medical, dental and veterinary assistance and exchanges across Morocco, Ghana and Senegal.
"Our goal here is to ensure that we are successfully setting the stage to have over 7,000 participants engage in the most realistic and challenging training in North and West Africa." said Danaraj. The efforts made during this event demonstrate our long-standing partnership with all the nations involved in this exercise."
With a little more than three months remaining before the exercise starts, planners from all participating nations assembled after a series of remote and virtual engagements, as well as in-person coordination in all four host countries. These meetings help coordinate the details of multinational field training and live-fire events, but also the incredible logistical and administrative support necessary to host an exercise of this scale and geographical dispersion.
"We are thankful for the partnership and cooperation we have with Morocco and all the partner nations involved in this exercise." said U.S. Army Maj. Matthew James, the lead planner for Exercise African Lion. "Every year, these planning events allow our partnership to become stronger by mutually sharing our knowledge and experiences. We are looking forward to a successful African Lion 24 this summer." said James.
One highlight of this year’s exercise will be a rapid deployment of a U.S. HIMARS rocket system by a U.S. Marine Forces Reserve battery into Morocco followed by a combined live-fire demonstration at the landing zone and rapid redeployment of the system to a follow-on location for further training.
"This exercise allows the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve to showcase its lethality and readiness by activating and deploying a unit from the continental United States all the way to Morocco," said US Marine Maj. Alistair Howard, lead planner for U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa. "With the assistance and support of our Moroccan partners, bringing in the HIMARS launchers allows us to seamlessly integrate with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and Moroccan Air Force." said Howard.
Further demonstrating contributions of the Guard and Reserve forces, units from multiple U.S. states will be participating across the exercise. As part of a long-standing State Partnership Program in Morocco, the Utah National Guard will support a humanitarian medial mission, an airborne operation and contribute to the large command post exercise in Morocco. Additionally, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Maryland, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia are all contributing forces across the different nations.
The State Partnership Program is designed to pair U.S. state National Guard programs with countries across Africa to execute bilateral events, including military and civilian engagements, to ultimately increase partner capacity and capability. These efforts are in support of US Africa Command’s, to promote regional stability in Africa.
"Multinational exercises like African Lion allow us to work shoulder to shoulder with multiple international partners and be part of a unique multinational force," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Frank Engle, commander of the New York Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry. “Our soldier's will be spread across North and West Africa, and we relish the opportunity to demonstrate our proficiency on the continent," said Engle.
About African Lion
African Lion is U.S. Africa Command's largest, premier, joint, annual exercise hosted by Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia. This joint all-domain, multi-component, and multinational exercise, employs a full array of mission capabilities with the goal to strengthen interoperability among participants and set the theater for strategic access.