Singapore’s annual large scale Australian military exercise canceled

Exercise Wallaby, the annual large scale Australian military exercise conducted by the Singapore Armed Forces in central Queensland, will not take place this year with both Singapore and Australia continue with their efforts to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes as Singapore’s Ministry of Defence announced that all of its large-scale training exercises have been suspended due to the pandemic and its accompanying fallout. It has already stopped its basic military training program at home for the latest batch of conscripts.

However, work continues on expansion of the training areas used by Singaporean and Australian military personnel with new contracts announced today, and both countries left open the possibility of Singapore’s military holding smaller scale training exercises in Australia if the pandemic situation in both countries improve.

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Defence, Exercise Wallaby is the largest of its overseas training exercises. The training agreement with Australia currently allows Singapore to deploy up to 4,000 troops to Australia’s Shoalwater Bay training area for the training event, which is normally held between September and November.

This will be expanded under the $2.25 billion Australia-Singapore Military Initiative (ASMTI), which will see the investment go into developing and enhancing training areas in Shoalwater Bay and near Townsville to meet the future needs of the Australian Defence Force and facilitate an increased presence of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel.

In a joint statement, Minister for Defence Senator Linda Reynolds and MP for Capricornia Michelle Landry noted  that up to 200 contract works packages to be made available over the life of the project, with the project’s construction workforce expected to peak at 450 people as part of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area expansion.

She further noted that “Singapore is a close defence partner, with a shared commitment to regional stability” and has conducted training in Australia for almost 30 years, while Singapore’s Ministry of Defence said it “appreciates the strong support of the Australian Government, Defence Australia, Australian Defence Force and the local communities of Rockhampton and Livingstone Shire for the SAF training there over the years”.

The ASMTI will eventually see 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.

The initiative will also see Singapore’s military able to conduct integrated training across all three services involving up to 14,000 personnel and 2,400 vehicles annually, and over a span of up to 18 weeks.

Land-scarce Singapore is also a regular participant in Exercise Pitch Black, a high-end multinational air combat exercise held in the skies over the Northern Territory once every two years, and regularly sends down detachments of its fighter aircraft for unilateral training.

In addition, 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 of five Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopters is based with the Australian Army’s Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland.

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