The USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, arrived in Agadir, Morocco, for a scheduled port visit on June 10, 2023.

African Lion 2023

The visit, in support of exercise African Lion 2023, aims to bolster the partnership between the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) and the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, promoting shared commitment to regional security and building interoperability between the two nations.

During the port visit, leaders and representatives from NAVEUR-NAVAF and the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces will be allowed to tour the USS Arleigh Burke, gaining insights into the ship’s capabilities and forging closer ties between the two naval forces.

James Marques, an aerospace, defence, and security analyst at GlobalData, provided his opinion on the strength of the naval relationship between the two nations: “Morocco is designated as an important US ally. African Lion 2023 is an ongoing training exercise co-organised by the US and Morocco. 

The US considers Morocco a ‘regional security leader’, particularly around counter-terrorism and maritime security in the Mediterranean. An important avenue for the US to deal with security issues in Africa.” 

The visit will also feature a Maritime Exercise Key Leader Engagement to strengthen the relationship and promote interoperability between the US and Moroccan Armed Forces.

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Commander Pete Flynn, the commanding officer of the USS Arleigh Burke, expressed his honour at visiting Agadir and emphasised the importance of the partnership with Morocco. He stated, “Our partnership with Morocco provides the US Navy with a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our shared commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Africa.”

The US has got Morocco’s back

GlobalData’s “Morocco Defence Market 2023-2028” report reveals Morocco’s strong relationship with the US. Morocco is designated as a major non-NATO ally. A position solidified under the Trump administration in the US, which backed Morocco’s proposed solutions to the Western Sahara conflict.

Morocco’s relationship with the US can also be seen as an expression of broader geopolitical alignments: Algeria has recently fallen back on a good relationship with Russia due to deteriorating relations with France and the US.

Following the port visit, the USS Arleigh Burke and its crew will join approximately 8,000 participants from 18 nations in the ongoing exercise African Lion 23.

As the largest annual combined joint exercise conducted by US Africa Command, African Lion aims to enhance strategic readiness, fostering the ability of joint teams to deploy, fight, and succeed in complex multi-domain environments. This year’s exercise will feature various operations, including maritime interdiction, air defence, anti-submarine warfare, and naval gunfire exercises.

Command Master Chief Rafael Barney of the USS Arleigh Burke praised the crew’s resilience and expressed his confidence in their ability to contribute to African security. He quoted Admiral Arleigh Burke, the ship’s namesake, saying, “This ship is built to fight,” and highlighted their commitment to displaying African security as a top priority for their African partners.

As a member of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E), the USS Arleigh Burke is on its third patrol in the NAVEUR-NAVAF area of operations. Departing from Naval Station Rota, Spain, on February 2, 2023, the ship has operated in various regions, including the Baltic, North, Mediterranean, and Black Sea.

The USS Arleigh Burke is one of four US Navy destroyers based at Naval Station Rota, Spain, assigned to Commander Task Force 65 in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defence architecture. This assignment allows for seamless co-operation and co-ordination with NATO allies in safeguarding the European and African regions.

The visit of the vessel to Agadir, Morocco, not only strengthens the bond between the United States and Morocco but also serves as a testament to the commitment of both nations to promoting regional security and fostering lasting partnerships.