PartnershipsSoutheast Asia

Singapore, U.S. demonstrate military ties with Exercise Tiger Balm, other joint defense engagements

Tom Abke

Singaporean Soldiers joined United States counterparts in Hawaii for the 42nd iteration of Exercise Tiger Balm in May 2023. The longest-running exercise between the Singapore and U.S. armies, it enables the forces to collaborate and share tactics, techniques and procedures in activities such as command post and field training drills. (Pictured: Singapore Armed Forces personnel drill during Exercise Tiger Balm 2023 in Hawaii.)

As a hallmark of the militaries’ historic ties, Tiger Balm also strengthens combat readiness, interoperability and regional security.

Tiger Balm 2023, conducted from May 8-19, included a brigade-level command post exercise involving about 400 personnel from the 6th Singapore Division/Headquarters Sense & Strike, the 10th Singapore Infantry Brigade, the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, and the U.S. Army National Guards in Hawaii and Tennessee. The exercise featured a live-virtual-constructive simulation system integration, which connected command posts in Hawaii and Singapore.

Meanwhile, a combined arms live-fire drill included the U.S. Army’s Fire Support Team and the Singapore Army’s Strike Observer Mission team, with a U.S. Army field artillery unit and intelligence-gathering teams providing real-time target surveillance and acquisition, according to a Singapore Ministry of Defence news release.

“The safe and successful conduct of Exercise Tiger Balm 2023 reaffirmed the commitment of both our armies to strengthen our partnership, deepen our cooperation and most importantly, build close friendship,” Col. Anand Sathi Kumar, commander of the 6th Singapore Division/Headquarters Sense & Strike, said in a statement.

The exercise was last held in the U.S. in 2019. Tiger Balm was canceled in 2020 and held virtually in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic before returning to Singapore in 2022.

“Tiger Balm represents a vital partnership, showcasing the dedication of our brave Soldiers and their Singaporean counterparts,” the U.S. Army National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is headquartered in Tennessee, said in a statement. “Together, we strive for enhanced strength, lethality and preparedness in the face of evolving challenges.”

Tiger Balm is among the exercises involving the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the U.S military. During the bilateral Exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training in January 2023, about 2,000 personnel, four ships and aircraft from the nations’ navies conducted five days of maritime drills.

Singapore Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How recently characterized the countries’ defense relationship as mutually beneficial and enduring. “Singapore views the U.S.’s presence in the Asia-Pacific as important for regional peace and stability, and we welcome it,” he said during an April 2023 ceremony at the Arizona National Guard Silverbell Army Heliport in the U.S., where Singapore Air Force personnel have received AH-64D Apache helicopter training for 20 years.

“Singapore has also participated in various U.S.-led international operations, such as those in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf of Aden,” he said. “Ours is an enduring and active partnership.”

With over 1,000 SAF personnel training in the U.S. at any given time, Singapore maintains the second-largest foreign military presence in the continental U.S.

“Singapore and the United States have deep, long-standing military and security cooperation,” Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore, told FORUM. “These cover a range of issues. The number and depth of exchanges and joint exercises are reflective of this defense relationship.”

Tom Abke is a FORUM correspondent reporting from Singapore.


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