SAF in 'preliminary talks' with NZ on training pilots there

Mindef said that as Singapore is a small country with limited airspace, it will always need overseas training space to maintain its operational readiness.
Mindef said that as Singapore is a small country with limited airspace, it will always need overseas training space to maintain its operational readiness.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Singapore is exploring the possibility of deploying fighter jets in New Zealand for pilot training - a move which would deepen the defence ties between both countries.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is now conducting "preliminary discussions and feasibility studies" with the New Zealand Defence Force on the possible move, Singapore's Ministry of Defence (Mindef) told The Straits Times yesterday.

It could entail deploying a squadron of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) F-15 fighters at the Ohakea air base in Manawatu, in the North Island, according to New Zealand media reports.

Up to 500 people could be stationed at the base, or in the region, along with the detachment, reported The New Zealand Herald on Saturday.

New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said in the same report that besides enhancing the strategic alliance with Singapore, there could be economic benefits for the local community with the RSAF deployment.

Mr Brownlee added that he expects the deployment to take a few years to be established if it is given the green light.

When asked about the deployment, a Mindef spokesman told ST: "Overseas flying training in New Zealand will provide opportunities for both sides to enhance defence cooperation and people-to-people ties between our militaries."

The spokesman added that both countries are "close defence partners, and share a long history of operational and training cooperation".

Since 1997, the SAF has been sending artillery units annually to New Zealand to conduct live-firing exercises.

The 20th Exercise Thunder Warrior was held last month in the Waiouru Training Area, in North Island, and visited by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Mindef said that as Singapore is a small country with limited airspace, it will always need overseas training space to maintain its operational readiness.

Singapore has a detachment of F-15s based at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, US.

In August last year, it was revealed that the RSAF was looking into conducting fighter training in Guam, an island in the Pacific Ocean, and even setting up a training facility there.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'SAF in 'preliminary talks' with NZ on training pilots there'. Print Edition | Subscribe