Defence Minister hopes Australia will give SAF more time and space to train

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen interacting with Exercise Wallaby 2015 participants. The exercise is the Singapore Armed Forces' largest overseas drill held in the Australian state of Queensland.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen interacting with Exercise Wallaby 2015 participants. The exercise is the Singapore Armed Forces' largest overseas drill held in the Australian state of Queensland.PHOTO: MINDEF

Defence Minister voices hope Australian govt will give Singapore more time and space

More citizen soldiers could get the chance to be put through their paces Down Under if Australia allows Singapore more time and space for training, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

While some ground units made up of operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) now already train alongside full-time national servicemen (NSFs) in Australia, Dr Ng hopes to include more.

"Obviously if they (Australian government) would allow, we would want more time and more space... I can imagine that more of our NS units should be doing this as well," said Dr Ng.

He was speaking to reporters after witnessing a live-fire training session during Exercise Wallaby, the Singapore Armed Forces' largest overseas exercise held in the Australian state of Queensland.

This year's annual 65-day drill in Shoalwater Bay involves more than 4,000 personnel and 400 different platforms. It ends next Wednesday.

The training area is three times the size of Singapore, with terrain including rugged outback, bushland and mountains.

Dr Ng said Singapore troops, who have been training Down Under since 1990, need to be exposed to realistic training to hone their skills. "We need this kind of realism because our Bionixes (armoured vehicles), our tanks and our other vehicles move at very fast speeds now compared to previously and the realism really comes from moving long distances, live firing, manoeuvring with a number of vehicles around you and having the confidence, so this is very important for us to build confidence and professionalism."

SAF servicemen and women also train in Western Australia and New South Wales.

In all, a dozen countries are used for training, including the United States, Germany, India, Brunei and New Zealand.

Dr Ng thanked the Australian government and the Australian Defence Force for allowing Singapore to train in the area for 25 years.

He also met his Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Sydney on Thursday, with both sides reaffirming their commitment to strengthen bilateral defence ties and come up with new initiatives for military training and cooperation.

Dr Ng said he is confident in the capabilities of Singapore's troops, adding that very few countries can train at such a pace during peacetime.

"The SAF is among the very few that do this and as we continually do this, I think the deterrence signal is very real - that we are a professional army and we are friends with everyone, but if ever we need to, we stand ready to protect and defend Singapore," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Training in Australia for more NS units?'. Print Edition | Subscribe