Singapore, Australian defence ministers mark 30 years of SAF training in Queensland

A commemorative plaque installed at Camp Growl to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the SAF’s training in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - The defence ministers of Singapore and Australia on Tuesday (Dec 15) welcomed steady progress made in the development of training areas in the Australian state of Queensland on the occasion of the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) 30th anniversary of training there.

Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen and Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds met virtually to commemorate the occasion, said a Ministry of Defence statement.

In a joint statement, they reaffirmed the growing bilateral defence relationship and their shared commitment to a peaceful, inclusive and resilient region with Asean at its core.

The joint development of training areas was formalised under the Singapore-Australia Treaty on Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia, which both ministers signed in March.

The Australian Parliament ratified the treaty last Thursday, said Mindef.

The treaty allows the SAF access to a larger training area in central and northern Queensland, and facilitates the development of military training areas and facilities.

During the meeting on Tuesday, the ministers launched a commemorative video highlighting key milestones of the SAF's training in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) since 1990.

They said the commencement that year was a "seminal event" in the defence relationship.

"Continued training over the years is a visible manifestation of our deep and abiding relationship, which has expanded in scale and reach."

"As a result, thousands of Singapore Armed Forces soldiers and national service personnel among them train annually in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area," they said.

Dr Ng thanked the government and people of Australia for their strong support of the SAF training in Australia, while Ms Reynolds expressed appreciation to the government and people of Singapore for their longstanding friendship and partnership.

Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong and Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, virtually unveiled a commemorative plaque at Camp Growl, which has housed most of the SAF troops that train in SWBTA.

(Clockwise, from top left) Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Australian Defence Force chief General Angus Campbell and First Assistant Secretary, International Policy Division, Hugh Jeffrey. PHOTO: MINDEF

Exercise Wallaby, the SAF's biggest overseas drill held every year since 1990 at the training area, was suspended this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2013, Exercise Trident - the signature bilateral exercise between the SAF and the Australian Defence Force involving the three services of both militaries - was incorporated.

The SWBTA, about four times the size of Singapore, allows training at a scale and complexity which cannot be done in Singapore.

Its expansion - which is facilitated under the treaty - is scheduled to be completed by 2024, with major construction works having started. A new Greenvale Training Area is expected to be completed by 2028.

The militaries of Singapore and Australia have a long history of cooperation, with extensive interactions including multilateral exercises and professional exchanges, said Mindef.

Both defence establishments also cooperate closely at the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus and the Five Power Defence Arrangements, it added.

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