In 1968, Britain announced the landmark “East-of-Suez” withdrawal in its defence white paper, accelerating plans to end their military presence in the Asia-Pacific by March 1971. The region was far from stable then. The Indonesian Confrontation with Malaysia had just
ended and the Vietnam War was raging, with the communist forces continuing their push southwards.

A defence arrangement was quickly drawn up to protect the Malaysian peninsular and Singapore. This was built on the foundations of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement involving Malaysia, the U.K, Australia and New Zealand. With Singapore as a newly formed nation, the Five Powers Defence Arrangement (FPDA) was established in November 1971, and has evolved into a consultative-based pact, rather than a NATO-style military alliance.

From the early days, officials from the five militaries gather at the FPDA Integrated Air Defence (IAD) HQ” “in Butterworth, Penang, for air defence exercises. This has evolved into joint exercises to cover land and sea elements, becoming the Bersama-series exercises we know today. The Integrated Air Defence HQ has been renamed Integrated Area Defence to reflect the joint nature of the drill.

Bersama exercises continued in an era of relative peace in the 80s and 90s. However, as the world entered the millennium it was presented with a new threat of terrorism post-9/11 and saw unprecedented military-led humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR)
operations after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.”

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