FPDA militaries conduct drill with 2,600 troops; first such exercise since pandemic

The tri-service exercise is the first FPDA exercise to be conducted physically as a field training exercise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: SGPC.GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and militaries from Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) countries are conducting a two-week exercise involving some 2,600 troops, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Exercise Bersama Gold 2021 is traditionally named Exercise Bersama Lima, but was renamed this year to mark the FDPA's golden jubilee, said Mindef in its statement on Tuesday (Oct 5).

The FPDA, established in 1971, is a pact comprising Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

The tri-service exercise from Monday to Oct 18 is the first FPDA exercise to be conducted physically as a field training exercise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and safety precautions were taken, said Mindef.

Among the highlights is a "contactless" maritime drill held in the southern parts of the South China Sea in international waters.

Serials such as anti-air and anti-submarine exercises, gunnery firings and manoeuvring drills will be conducted.

Assets involved in the exercise include 10 ships, one submarine, six maritime helicopters, three maritime patrol aircraft and 25 fighter aircraft.

FPDA air forces will take part in air defence exercises, and support the maritime component in anti-submarine exercises.

For the land component, a virtual jungle warfare workshop involving cross-sharing of jungle fighting doctrines and discussions on how to better operate with one another will be conducted, said Mindef.

SAF's Colonel Ng Xun Xi, deputy director of Exercise Bersama Gold 2021, said that the exercise will facilitate the sharing of professional knowledge and experiences, and enhance mutual understanding and trust between personnel from the FPDA countries.

"I'm heartened to see that despite the Covid-19 situation, FPDA member-nations remain very committed to the exercise. Singapore is also glad to play our part by hosting the participating (Australia, New Zealand and British) assets," he said.

"I look forward to a very fruitful exercise with many meaningful activities lined up as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of FPDA."

Mindef said that the FPDA's 50th anniversary falls on Nov 1 this year, and the defence pact will mark this milestone year with a series of activities and events.

The last Bersama Lima was held in October 2019, involving about 3,000 personnel.

It had featured a field training exercise with conventional warfare, maritime counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief elements.

The FPDA has evolved over the years to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex contemporary security environment since 1971, said Mindef.

The SAF also participates in FPDA exercises such as Exercise Suman Warrior and Exercise Bersama Shield to strengthen cooperation with other member-nations and build professional relationships, it added.

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