SAF and PLA conduct joint counter-terrorist urban raid to wrap up 10-day exercise

Lieutenant-Colonel Fabian Pwi (right), Commanding Officer, 1st Commando battalion, and Major Luo Changjian, Battalion Officer of the 74th Army Group, PLA Southern Theater Command Army, at the closing ceremony of Exercise Cooperation on Aug 5, 2019. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Working together as part of a fictional peacekeeping task force, army troops from Singapore and China assaulted a building in a counter-terrorist urban raid to take out "enemy forces" on Monday (Aug 5).

Soldiers from the 1st Commando Battalion and the People's Liberation Army Southern Theater Command Army set off a demolition charge to force entry into the three-storey building, with others rappelling down from the rooftop.

Two SAF Peacekeeper Protected Response Vehicles arrived shortly after to form a protective cordon and later, evacuated civilians from the building.

The simultaneous assault by both sides at the Murai Urban Training Facility in the Lim Chu Kang area was the culmination of the 10-day Exercise Cooperation, the flagship exercise between the two armies.

This year's exercise, held from July 27 to Monday (Aug 5), was the biggest in the series, which was launched in 2009.

About 120 soldiers from each side took part. Participating units were the SAF's 3rd Singapore Division and 1st Commando Battalion, and the PLA Southern Theater Command Army's 74th Army Group.

At the closing ceremony at Jurong Camp on Monday, Chief of Staff-General Staff, Brigadier-General (BG) Kenneth Liow, said in a speech that the exercise has progressed by leaps and bounds since 2009, keeping pace with the positive momentum of the defence relationship between Singapore and China.

"Over the course of these 10 years, Exercise Cooperation has continued to evolve, while serving as a meaningful platform for professional exchanges between our armies, in highly relevant and diverse areas - counter-terrorism, infantry and chemical, biological, radiological and explosive operations.

"This wide spectrum of operations that Exercise Cooperation has covered demonstrates the close partnership and adaptability of our troops on both sides to cooperate effectively across many different security scenarios," he said.

His counterpart, Commander Southern Theater Command Army, Lieutenant-General (Lt-Gen) Zhang Jian, said the exercise was a practical action in accordance with the agreement reached by the leaders of the two countries and militaries to deepen military cooperation.

"It demonstrates our shared will to maintain regional peace and stability. It also conforms to the tide of the times, which is to strive for peace, cooperation and development," he said.

Over the past 10 days, both sides took part in small arms and small group urban operations live firing at the indoor Multi-Mission Range Complex at Pasir Laba Camp.

They also honed their competencies in other areas such as in rappelling, weapon handling, basic demolition and close-quarter combat techniques.

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Exercise director, Colonel Lek Seng Khoon, told reporters on Monday after the final mission that its successful execution is testament to the mutual trust and strong level of cooperation between the two forces.

"Soldiers from both armies had the opportunity to learn from one another, both professionally and culturally, strengthening the relationship between our armies," said the Chief of Staff for the 3rd Singapore Division.

His counterpart, Senior Colonel Zhong Linjiang, who is from the staff officer department at the Southern Theater Command Army, said: "Out of the four exercises in the series, this exercise was the largest scale, most substantive, and had the deepest cooperation.

"Both sides displayed strong professional standards and warfighting capabilities. I hope we can further expand cooperation in future exercises and exchanges," he added.

The exercise was last held in 2014 in Nanjing, China. Then, both armies took part in conventional land warfare scenarios and shooting practices involving 70 soldiers from each side.

Before that, the two editions in 2009 and 2010 were based on anti-terror drills that tested how soldiers respond to chemical and explosive threats, among other missions.

In May this year, China and Singapore agreed to revise a defence pact which could include larger-scale military exercises and frequent high-level dialogues, as part of efforts to deepen defence ties and cooperation.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe had met in Singapore then to discuss the revised Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation.

They had welcomed Exercise Cooperation and Exercise Maritime Cooperation by both navies to be held in 2020.

Corporal Krishanraj Elangovan, 20, from the 1st Commando Battalion said: "I believe that the PLA troopers were high-spirited and kind, and they emphasise brotherhood a lot. When we were ahead of them or vice versa, we always waited for each other, so we finished all the training together."

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