Singapore details Australian training area plans

Singapore’s defence minister has given an update on its plans to increase the island nation’s training footprint in Australia, with work underway at two major training areas in Queensland that will be complete later this decade.

Speaking in Singapore’s Parliament during a budget debate, Dr Ng Eng Hen said Australia “will be a key node for the best of class training facilities”, adding that “significant progress has been made” on the efforts to prepare the training areas under the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) signed in 2015.

One of the key aspects of the CSP is the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative (ASMTI), which will see land-scarce Singapore invest up to $2.25 billion in Australia under the program to develop and enhance training areas to meet the future needs of the Australian Defence Force and facilitate an increased presence of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel.

Ng said that an ammunition storage building in Australia was completed last year, while work on the training areas will continue with construction at Shoalwater Bay in central Queensland to be completed by 2024 and Greenvale in northern Queensland to be completed by 2028.

He added that this will include a combined arms Air-Land range for Singapore’s Army and Air Force to conduct training “with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, drones, artillery and other combined arms platforms”, and will be “complemented by the Urban Operations Live Firing facilities for air and combined arms live-firing in a realistic environment.”

Both ranges “will be equipped with advanced targeting and instrumentation”, and will be set “in an area approximately ten times the size of Singapore” (which measures approximately 700 square kilometres. For perspective, the Greater Sydney region covers more than 12,300 sq km).

When these facilities are completed, Singapore’s military will be able to conduct integrated brigade-level training involving all three services involving up to 14,000 personnel and up to 2,400 vehicles annually, and over a span of up to 18 weeks as set out under the ASMTI, which Ng described as a “significant asset for our defence capabilities”.

Singapore is currently able to send around 4,000 troops to Australia every year carry out field training in existing training facilities in Shoalwater Bay, where the SAF carries out the annual Exercise Wallaby series of exercises.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) also currently trains in Australia, with a detachment of Pilatus PC-21 trainers in RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia for pilot ab initio training while a helicopter detachment is based with the Australian Army’s Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland.

The Oakey Detachment consists of five Boeing CH-47D Chinooks, with Singapore’s Ministry of Defence confirming to DRA that six Aerospatiale AS332M/M1 Super Puma previously assigned to the detachment had been withdrawn from service in January 2019.

The RSAF’s Oakey detachment was recently involved in bushfire relief operations alongside the ADF. Two Chinooks and 71 personnel operated out of RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and ferried over 400 passengers, more than 7 cargo pallets along with 1600 litres of fuel over a four week period in January and February, notching up 150 flying hours in the process.


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