Training, defense talks bolster ties between Singapore, U.S.

Training, defense talks bolster ties between Singapore, U.S.

Tom Abke

Singapore and the United States continued to strengthen their defense relationship in November 2021 with a high-level defense exchange and a series of training activities by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on U.S. territory.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other defense officials November 2-4, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Ng and Austin discussed ways to improve coordination between the militaries and stressed the necessity of a continued U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific, according to the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).

Ng thanked the U.S. for its long-standing  training of SAF personnel in the U.S., and Austin acknowledged the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) for sending troops and a tanker transport aircraft to support U.S. evacuation operations in Afghanistan.

Ng’s visit was preceded by Austin’s July trip to Singapore, where the leaders discussed heightening cooperation in cyber defense and strategic communications.

About 200 Singapore Army personnel and another 600 from its Air Force assembled at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho for Exercise Forging Sabre, a unilateral integrated strike exercise conducted September 14-25, 2021, according to a MINDEF fact sheet. (Pictured: A Republic of Singapore Air Force member inspects an aircraft during Exercise Forging Sabre in Idaho.)

“The SAF is able to train in a vast training area with an airspace more than 20 times the size of Singapore, allowing the SAF to conduct larger-scale and realistic training to maintain high levels of readiness for Singapore’s defence,” the fact sheet added.

During the exercise, the SAF deployed a Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle and a smaller drone to scan the battlefield from various heights to provide an integrated command post with a comprehensive real-time picture, MINDEF reported. The command post was equipped with a new Command and Control Information System, which uses data analytics and artificial intelligence, and weapon-to-target matching algorithms developed by SAF in conjunction with Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency.

The U.S. Department of State describes Singapore as “one of the United States’ strongest bilateral partners in Southeast Asia” in its fact sheet on U.S. security cooperation with the island nation. The countries cooperate on a host of issues, including border security, maritime security, military preparedness, counterproliferation, cybersecurity and counterterrorism.

Over 1,000 Singaporean military personnel train and receive military education in the United States, the State Department reported, adding that the RSAF has maintained advanced fighter jet detachments in the U.S. for the past 27 years.

In the past two years, Singapore has strengthened its defense ties with the U.S., recently renewing the 1990 memorandum of understanding for the use of facilities in Singapore and signing another agreement concerning the RSAF training detachment in Guam.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.