Plans underway for African Lion, Africa's biggest military exercise

African Lions 21 is scheduled to kick off in June 2021. This year's iteration will involve ~5,000 troops from the U.S., Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and elsewhere.


"Rehearsing sophisticated joint, all-domain operations, we are also improving on the strong foundations of friendship between Morocco and the U.S. with an ever-increasing coalition of partners and Allies." Brig. Gen. Jackson
By Maj. Cain Claxton Southern European Task Force, Africa Agadir, Morocco Feb 04, 2021
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Militaries from U.S. and Morocco met Jan. 20-28 to layout plans for the 17th episode of African Lion, scheduled for June.

Military planners surveyed training areas and converged training and readiness goals to scale African Lion exercise, while ensuring safeguards against COVID-19.

"COVID-19 presents new challenges for us as exercise planners, but we are committed to ensuring we have the best fighting force, best partners, and everything we need for strategic access and readiness," said Col. Robert Perry, director of training and exercises, U.S. Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-Africa). 

Perry led the U.S. planning team on the ground, while hundreds of other military experts participated virtually.

Established in 2002 between U.S. Marines and the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, African Lion has a long history of bringing together U.S., Moroccan and other partners and allies to build interoperability, strengthen relationships and increase readiness. U.S. Africa Command increased its participation in the exercise in 2019 with the involvement of SETAF-Africa, from Vicenza, Italy.

"SETAF-Africa provides AFRICOM a dedicated and ready joint task force capability," said Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson, deputy commander, SETAF-Africa. "We are going to stress and test that capability in African Lion 21."

As AFRICOM's largest exercise, involving thousands of troops from all U.S services including National Guard and Reserve elements, African Lion provides an opportunity for all participating units and nations to enhance readiness by performing their mission essential functions. This year's iteration will involve more than 5,000 troops from the U.S., Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and elsewhere.

"What we do in Africa matters," Jackson said. "Not only are we building tactical unit readiness by deploying forces thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, and rehearsing sophisticated joint, all-domain operations, we are also improving on the strong foundations of friendship between Morocco and the U.S. with an ever-increasing coalition of partners and Allies." 

Plans for African Lion 21 involve nine nations as exercise participants, with dozens of others as observers. Scheduled activities span three continents and six countries.

The exercise scenario pits this multinational coalition against a state-sponsored and supported paramilitary force with near-peer capabilities. Linked to U.S. European Command's Defender series exercise, African Lion exercise is designed to counter malign activity in North Africa and Southern Europe and increase interoperability between U.S., African, and international partners to defend the theater from adversary military aggression.