New treaty allows SAF to train in vastly expanded area in Australia

Soldiers move off after they deplaned from an RSAF chinook as part of Exercise Trident at Shoalwater Bay Training Area in 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will have access to a vastly expanded training area in the Australian state of Queensland following the signing of a treaty on Monday (March 23) between the defence ministers of the two countries.

The expanded Shoalwater Bay Training Area is scheduled to be completed by 2024, and the Greenvale Training Area by 2028. Combined, both areas are about 10 times the size of Singapore.

Advanced training facilities will be built, such as air-land ranges for combined arms allowing the Singapore army and air force to train together with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, drones and artillery guns, said the Ministry of Defence in a statement on Monday.

Urban operations live-firing facilities allowing for training in a realistic urban environment will also be built.

The enhanced military training access followed the signing of the treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia.

It was an upgrade of the existing memorandum of understanding signed in 2016 under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and Singapore. The treaty marked a "significant milestone" in bilateral defence relations, said the Mindef statement.

"The advanced training facilities will benefit both armed forces and deepen defence cooperation," it said.

In total, the SAF will be able to conduct training for up to 18 weeks annually, involving up to 14,000 personnel for 25 years when the training areas are completed. This is up from six weeks and 6,600 personnel currently.

Training vehicles and equipment involved will also be increased from up to 500 now to up to 2,400 in 2028.

Mindef said the larger scale training allows the SAF to meet its growing requirements for motorised and armoured live-firing training as well as combined arms and joint training to hone its capabilities as a modern and integrated fighting force.

The annual Exercise Wallaby - the SAF's largest overseas exercise which involved about 3,000 personnel last year in an area about four times the size of Singapore - has been held in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area since 1990.

The SAF also conducts other training in Australia, such as Pearce airbase in Western Australia, Oakey in Queensland, and Tamworth in New South Wales.

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