S'pore and Australia militaries conduct largest ever bilateral exercise simulating beach landing

SAF soldiers disembark from two fast utility crafts during a training exercise for Exercise Trident. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SHOALWATER BAY, Australia - More than 1,600 Singapore and Australian troops are taking part in the bilateral Exercise Trident where air, land and sea servicemen will practise securing a beach and moving inland from three ships.

For the first time, an Australian ship, the HMAS Adelaide, is participating, while the other two ships in the 11-day exercise are from the Singapore Navy (RSN).

The HMAS Adelaide is a 230m-long helicopter landing dock which can hold more than 1,000 troops and 18 helicopters, along with other military vehicles and equipment.

Helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Air Force will be lifting troops from all three ships, as well as providing support to soldiers on the beach.

Previous editions of the exercise, first held in 2013, were conducted with just one RSN ship.

The presence of two other ships, especially one from a different navy, adds layers of complexity to the exercise - the largest so far - said Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Koh, the commander for the exercise's naval component.

He said: "This is an opportunity to test ourselves and learn from others... smooth seas don't make good sailors."

Colonel Alan Tan, the exercise's director, said Trident's value is in its combination of air, land and sea forces.

Referring to the vast space afforded by Shoalwater Bay to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), he said: "The integration of these into an amphibious operation to send troops from ships onto the beach... is something on a scale we cannot achieve in Singapore."

The exercise - which runs concurrently with the SAF's largest overseas exercise, Wallaby, also in Shoalwater Bay - will see troops from the 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards and the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment working together.

The troops will be held on the larger ships out at sea before being sent onto land via fast craft and helicopter for their mission.

Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment and the 3rd Battalion, Singapore Guards in Shoalwater Bay training area in Queensland, for Exercise Trident. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

On Tuesday morning, a company of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards were put through their paces, charging out of fast craft sent out from the RSS Endurance - one of the RSN ships participating in the exercise.

The other is the RSS Persistence. Both ships are known as landing ships, tank (LSTs), which are large transport ships capable of carrying tanks, helicopters as well as troops and their equipment.

Overhead, two Apache helicopters flew into view to support the troops as they landed on the beach on pre-designated lanes.

The lanes were put in place by an advance party dropped on shore earlier to prepare the beach for the troops' arrival.

This group is led by Major Charles Ng, an operationally ready national serviceman from the RSN who is carrying out the role of "beachmaster" at Exercise Trident.

Once the beach is cleared, troops like Second Lieutenant Farain Efran Lau Chang Fa bin Muhammad Heikel Lau will come on shore to secure it.

2LT Farain, a full-time national serviceman and platoon commander in the 3rd Singapore Guards, said: "Coming here and working with the Australian Defence Force and sleeping in a tent are new experiences which I will definitely remember." He was referring to how troopers and officers alike were housed in tents for parts of their overseas stay.

"They're very polite and willing to share, and it's a great experience working with and learning from a professional army."

The exercise began on Sept 23 and will end on Oct 3.

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