2m-high waves delay plans for ship-to-shore exercise

Sailors working in the well dock of the RSS Resolution as it prepares to receive a fast craft. The well dock allows the fast craft to sail into the ship where troops, equipment and vehicles can be dropped off.
Sailors working in the well dock of the RSS Resolution as it prepares to receive a fast craft. The well dock allows the fast craft to sail into the ship where troops, equipment and vehicles can be dropped off.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

ROCKHAMPTON • Choppy seas have delayed plans for a ship-to-shore military exercise in which Singaporean and Australian troops are meant to storm a beach.

Waves up to two metres high at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia, were outside the safety limits for the navy's fast craft to carry troops and vehicles to shore.

However, the fact that the manoeuvre could not take place was "not a showstopper", and Exercise Trident will go on, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How vowed yesterday.

The battalion-level amphibious operation is meant to be the culmination of Exercise Trident, a signature bilateral exercise between the two countries taking place from Oct 31 to Nov 14.

Troops will continue the operation when sea conditions improve.

An advance party transferred by helicopter to land was witnessed by Mr Heng and Australian Assistant Minister for Defence David Fawcett.

Speaking to reporters on the landing ship tank RSS Resolution, where the air force's helicopters took off from, Mr Heng said: "It's the nature of military operations, you have got to adapt to the environment, including the weather and the sea state. But really what it means is that we will find different ways to attain our operational objectives.

"The fact that we are not able to do this particular tactical manoeuvre today is not a showstopper, (we have) an all-weather partnership that has gone on for years; we have been at Shoalwater Bay for 28 years, and we will continue to be here to expand our collaboration."

He added that the exercise demonstrates the closeness of defence relations - something that has "gone back decades and will grow stronger in the days ahead".

Mr Heng added that there is great value in training in Australia.

"(I think it shows) Singapore is able to overcome the physical constraints that we face in order for our armed forces to be able to learn to fight in a very integrated way, thereby increasing our effectiveness," he said.

This year's Exercise Trident features the largest contingent of Australian troops since the exercise was launched in 2013.

More than 100 Australian Defence Force soldiers took part as part of more than 1,300 troops from both sides.

The exercise is the third phase of Exercise Wallaby, the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) largest overseas exercise which began in September.

Under the memorandum of understanding on Military Training and Training Area Development signed in 2016, the SAF will be able to conduct training in Australia for 18 weeks a year with 14,000 troops.

Mr Fawcett said that the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership is a "good bedrock" for bilateral training.

He said that Singapore's investment in Townsville shows how the deal not only benefits Singapore, but also helps to build infrastructure and industrial capability in Australia.

For the ship-to-shore operation, one platoon from the Guards battalion is attached to the Australian forces for the operation, and vice versa.

Captain Brian Chua, 30, officer commanding of Bravo company from the 1st Guards Battalion, said last Friday that he found the Australians forthcoming and professional. "On a personal level, our soldiers even taught them a bit of Singlish," he said.

His counterpart, Major Pat D'arcy, 30, an officer commanding of the Alpha Company of the 8th/9th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, said the way the SAF first sends a team to mark the beach landing site and the path ahead is something they have learnt from Singapore troops during rehearsals.

"That is something we don't do and could potentially implement in our own standard operating procedures," he added.

Lim Min Zhang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 11, 2018, with the headline '2m-high waves delay plans for ship-to-shore exercise'. Print Edition | Subscribe