Singapore’s military training efforts produce a jobs windfall for Australia

Singapore’s military training efforts produce a jobs windfall for Australia

Tom Abke

The opportunity for Singapore’s Armed Forces (SAF) to conduct expanded wide-area field training is becoming a job-creating engine for Australia’s private sector.

The Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative (ASMTI), finalized by Canberra and Singapore in March 2020, will enable up to 14,000 SAF personnel to conduct training in two areas in Central and North Queensland over 18 weeks each year, according to Australia’s Department of Defence. Singapore’s U.S. $1.5 billion investment to enhance and develop the training areas is projected to generate hundreds of Australian construction jobs. The contract to build facilities at the new training area near Greenvale, North Queensland, is estimated to be worth more than U.S. $550 million for Australian companies.

Facilities will include a joint weapons range for Singapore’s Army and Air Force to train with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, drones, artillery and other combined arms platforms, Singaporean Minister of Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen told lawmakers in March 2020. A second range will be for live-fire urban operations exercises. Eng estimated the training area at 7,000 square kilometers, or roughly 10 times the size of Singapore.

“When completed, we can conduct complex training on a much larger scale” that only a few of the world’s militaries could duplicate, Eng said. “We expect construction at Shoalwater Bay to be completed by 2024 and Greenvale … to be completed by 2028.”

Central Queensland’s Shoalwater Bay Training Area has hosted the annual SAF multiforce training event, Exercise Wallaby, since 1990. Both training areas will also be used by the Australian Defence Force. (Pictured: Singaporean troops participate in a training exercise at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in 2019.)

Australian officials expressed enthusiasm for Singapore’s investment in ASMTI in a May 2020 statement.

“Singapore is a close defense partner with a shared commitment to regional stability, having conducted military training in Australia for almost 30 years,” said Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. “This initiative will be key to bolstering growth and supporting jobs as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Shoalwater expansion alone is expected to bring 450 jobs to the region, she added.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.