SAF fully resumes Exercise Wallaby in Australia, its largest overseas drill

From Aug 31 to Oct 8, soldiers will conduct drills in Shoalwater Bay in Queensland, Australia. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SHOALWATER BAY, Australia - More than 4,040 Singapore military personnel will be deployed in Australia as the Singapore Armed Forces' fully resumes Exercise Wallaby, its largest overseas drill.

From Aug 31 to Oct 8, these personnel from across three services - the army, navy and air force - will conduct drills over an area four times the size of Singapore in Shoalwater Bay in Queensland, Australia, said the Ministry of Defence on Saturday.

Troops will be put through their paces in the vast training area.

The drills will involve large-scale manoeuvres of multiple aircraft and armoured vehicles and the firing of weapons not possible in Singapore.

Some SAF servicemen will join the Australian Defence Force in a joint exercise known as Trident, where more than 1,600 troops will practice securing beaches as part of a long-standing bilateral defence pact.

First held in 1990, the annual Exercise Wallaby was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A scaled-down version was run in 2021 with about 580 troops from Singapore.

Exercise Wallaby in 2022 will involve more than 360 platforms including tanks, helicopters and landing ships tank.

It will also include a debut by the army's Veloce 15 mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which is operated by army intelligence teams.

It will for the first time conduct a link up with the air force's much larger unmanned drone - the Heron 1.

In preparation for a return to Shoalwater Bay, the SAF took extra precautions for both Covid-19 and training safety, said deputy chief guards officer Fredie Tan.

Colonel Tan - who is the commander of Wallaby's second frame - said this included ramped up preparation for troops and extra checks done on previously used training grounds.

The annual Exercise Wallaby was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

He told reporters on Thursday: "All soldiers here are also vaccinated and have taken booster shots, and if there is Covid-19 transmission, we have plans in place to quarantine those affected."

Wallaby is conducted across two frames or phases.

Frame one was completed on Tuesday and saw armour and transport units as well as elements from the air force conduct training and evaluation.

This phase of the exercise included the new CH-47F Chinook helicopter, which was first used in the scaled-down exercise in 2021.

Frame two began on Wednesday and included the army's guards units, military intelligence teams and aircraft - including the Apache helicopters - conducting drills and live firing.

Wallaby is conducted across two frames or phases. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The guards - an elite heliborne unit - will also fire the Spike anti-tank weapon, a 130mm guided missile that cannot be fired in Singapore.

Col Tan said Shoalwater Bay is a valuable training area as its varied terrain and large size allow soldiers to practice manoeuvres and use technology and weapons Singapore's small size constrains.

For example, he said the guards are able to practice driving their light strike vehicles - fast and light attack vehicles - at various speeds and on different inclines and types of landscape.

Shoalwater Bay training area is home to a variety of geographical features, including beaches, light forests and open fields.

The training area is in the process of expanding as well.

In 2020, Singapore and Australia inked an agreement to expand the training area and add the adjacent Greenvale Training area, which is scheduled for completion by 2028.

The combined training area is set to become 10 times the size of Singapore and will be able to accommodate 14,000 soldiers for training.

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