Republic of Singapore Air Force exploring possibility of training in Guam

RSAF aircraft on display during a media preview at its Open House on May 16, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is exploring the possibility of training in Guam.

This was announced in a joint statement issued by the White House on Tuesday (Aug 2), on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Barack Obama.

When asked about it on Wednesday, Mr Lee said the discussions were still in the preliminary stages and added that Guam was seen as a potential site because of its geographical location.

Mr Lee, who was speaking to reporters at the end of his official visit to the US, added: "The Air Force is always looking for opportunities to expand its training options because we are so airspace-constrained in Singapore.

"So we have fighter training in America, fighter training in Australia - we have a flying training school there, we have got a facility in France in Bordeaux."

According to Mr Lee, Guam - a US territory in the north-western Pacific Ocean - is geographically closer than the above-mentioned places. "Not as close as next door, but not so far away," he added.

The island is approximately a four-hour flight east of the Philippines.

"And the American forces are there," he said, referring to the US Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.

"There is a good possibility of us working together with them, and developing a training facility there."

Under a section addressing the enhancement of security and defense cooperation between Singapore and the US, the joint statement said: "The two leaders expressed support to explore new training opportunities for the Singapore Armed Forces in Guam, with an eye toward a potential long-term training detachment for the RSAF."

More that 1,000 military personnel from Singapore train or are stationed in the US each year.

In turn, the US deploys aircraft and ships to Singapore on a rotational basis to conduct "a variety of regional maritime patrol activities covering counterpiracy, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response".

The statement added that President Obama also welcomed Singapore's continued interest in its F-35 aircraft.

The futuristic fighter jet can travel at nearly twice the speed of sound and is equipped with advanced stealth features.

A Straits Times report in May said that Lockheed Martin, the US company which developed the plane, was looking to sew up a multibillion-dollar deal with Singapore, which is in the final stages of considering whether to go down the F-35 route.

Over 10 countries, including the US, have already joined the list to buy the F-35 despite reports of delays, rising production costs and dangerous production flaws.

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