SINGAPORE - A proposal for Singapore's F-15 fighter jet training to be conducted in New Zealand on a long-term basis will not be taking off, said the Ministry of Defence on Monday (Jan 7).
The decision follows nearly two years of discussions between the two countries, and confirms a New Zealand media report in December 2018 that the plans have been scrapped because of "excessive costs".
In response to media queries, Mindef said the ministry and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) appreciated New Zealand's support in assessing the feasibility of a long-term fighter training detachment in Ohakea, in Manawatu on the North Island.
"Both sides have mutually concluded that the proposal will not proceed. Singapore and New Zealand will continue to look for new opportunities to cooperate on defence and security activities," it added, without specifying reasons behind the decision.
In the report on New Zealand-based news website Newsroom on Dec 21, New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark was quoted as saying that both countries had agreed not to go ahead with the plan.
Locating Singapore's F-15s at Ohakea on a long-term basis was "not feasible without significant investment to alleviate the strain operations would place on the capacity of the airfield and the airspace above it", he said.
Mr Mark added that Singapore had agreed that the costs were an important factor in the final decision.
But he said New Zealand may yet host Singapore's fighter aircraft for short periods, revealing that he has asked officials to look at how these could visit in the future.
Mindef had been looking at the possibility of deploying fighter jets in New Zealand for pilot training since February 2017.
In August 2017, an RSAF deployment comprising six F-16D+ fighter jets, support equipment and about 110 personnel was deployed to Ohakea for a three-week exercise.
In March 2018, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Mr Mark had said in a joint statement at the second annual Singapore-New Zealand Defence Ministers' Meeting in Auckland that New Zealand would continue to evaluate the proposal.
Mindef added that Singapore and New Zealand are close defence partners, and share a long history of operational and training cooperation.
It said previously that as Singapore is a small country with limited airspace, it will always need overseas training space to maintain its operational readiness.
Singapore has a detachment of F-15s based at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, the United States.