The U.S. transferred two, 11-meter “Metal Shark” interceptor boats to the Royal Moroccan Navy on March 24. The transfer ceremony took place on the sidelines of the final planning event for African Lion 2022, U.S. Africa Command's premier military exercise - the largest on the African continent, held annually in partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco.
“Today’s handover ceremony is yet another milestone in the strong security partnership between our two countries, focused on maintaining regional peace and stability,” said Lt. Col. Teremuura Shamel, chief of the Security Cooperation Office at the U.S. Embassy in Morocco. “Our two navies have a long history of working together to secure the high seas, and especially the short 13 kilometers of the Strait of Gibraltar, against crime, terrorism, drug smuggling and human trafficking. These issues do not respect international borders and require collaboration to combat them effectively.”
The two boats, valued at $970,000, are aimed at enhancing the Royal Moroccan Navy’s capacity to stop illicit trafficking in regional waters and are part of the broader military partnership between Morocco and the U.S.
High-level officials from the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces and American counterparts met at the FAR’s southern zone headquarters to discuss preparations for African Lion 2022, which will take place across the Kingdom in the second half of June.
Portions of the exercise will also take place in Tunisia, Senegal, and Ghana. The 2021 exercise was the largest since the annual training event started in 2004, with more than 7,000 participants from nine nations and NATO.
“AL22 is the premiere joint multinational exercise in the AFRICOM area of responsibility,” Lt. Col. Shamel said. “It demonstrates our long-term commitment to Morocco – and all of Africa – in recognition of the continent’s strategic importance to the United States.
Morocco participates with the U.S. in more than 100 military exercises and events annually, including multilateral and bilateral exercises such as African Lion, Obangame Express, Phoenix Express, Lightening Handshake and Atlas Handshake.
In October of 2020, the two nations signed a ten-year “Roadmap for Defense Cooperation” that guides cooperation in priority areas, including bolstering the Royal Moroccan Navy’s coastal radar and surveillance capabilities to advance regional maritime security.