Expansion of SAF training area in Shoalwater Bay on track for 2024 completion

A flight deck marshal directing troops as they disembark onto the deck of the RSS Endurance at the Shoalwater Bay training area.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen speaking to the media on Sept 28 on board the RSS Endurance. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SHOALWATER BAY, Australia - The expansion of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Australia's Queensland state is on track for completion by 2024, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

This, together with the adjacent Greenvale Training Area when it is complete in 2028, will provide the SAF access to a combined training area 10 times the size of Singapore, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Wednesday.

The Shoalwater Bay Training Area is about four times the size of Singapore currently.

In an update on the expansion works, Dr Ng said: "Some elements will be completed on time and with others there'll be some slippage.

"But by and large, generally very good progress."

The expansion of the overall training area was set out in a treaty between the two countries in 2020. State-of-the art facilities, such as a simulated urban environment for live firing, will be included under the expansion.

Once completed, the combined space will be able to accommodate up to 14,000 soldiers for up to 18 weeks, up from the roughly 6,600 for six weeks possible now.

Dr Ng was speaking to reporters on the deck of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) RSS Endurance, which is in Shoalwater Bay as part of the bilateral Exercise Trident between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Singapore Armed Forces, after a helicopter tour of the training areas.

He is in Australia visiting troops in both Exercise Trident and Exercise Wallaby, the SAF's largest overseas exercise which fully resumed this year after being cancelled in 2020 and scaled down in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Dr Ng added that he was thankful to the Australian military for its support in making both exercises happen, and that the realistic training the area provides in its size and geography is a morale booster for Singapore's soldiers.

"The troops get to test their own capabilities and they get to see it put all together. So it's been very, very valuable," he said, referring to how the exercises involve the integration of the SAF's air, land and sea services.

Dr Ng added that the exercises have also considerably strengthened the relationships between the two militaries.

He is also scheduled for meetings with Australian leaders, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles.

Dr Ng said the meetings will focus on exploring other areas of military cooperation as well as sharing defence diplomacy initiatives.

Sketching briefly the agenda on the table, he said: "How do we make sure that our region continues to be stable? How do we handle the US-China rivalry? How do we deal with the Ukraine situation in Europe?"

Dr Ng added that the relationship Singapore shares with Australia is a rare one of shared values and perspectives.

"We're building things together," he said.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (wearing cap) speaking to SAF and ADF soldiers participating in Exercise Trident on HMAS Adelaide. PHOTO: MINDEF

Dr Ng also visited HMAS Adelaide, the first Australian ship to take part in Exercise Trident, where he spoke to soldiers from both the SAF and the ADF.

HMAS Adelaide is joining RSS Endurance and RSS Persistence in the largest iteration so far of the exercise, the first of which took place in 2013.

Singapore's Ministry of Defence, noting that 2022 marks the 32nd year the SAF is training at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, said on Wednesday that this is a testament to the close and long-standing defence relationship between Singapore and Australia.

It added: "The SAF and the ADF share a long history of military cooperation, with extensive interactions that include bilateral and multilateral exercises, mutual visits and professional exchanges."

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