Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA March-April 2017 Contents DefenceReviewAsia | MARCH/APRIL 2017 35
CHEN CHUANRENI / NEW ZEALAND
THE LION AND THE KIWI
On 16 January 2017, Singapore's Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen and his New Zealand counterpart Gerry Brownlee held the
inaugural Singapore-New Zealand Defence Minister Meeting after witnessing the Exercise under Warrior. is is an annual
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) artillery live ring exercise in the Waiouru Training Area located on the North Island. is year
marks the 20th anniversary of the exercise.
Despite over 50 years of diplomatic ties
between the two Commonwealth nations,
it's only recently that defence relations took a
major step to build on the relationship. The Singapore-
NZ defence ties started as early as 1941 when pilots
of New Zealand's 488 Squadron defended the skies
over Malaya based at Singapore's Kallang Airfield with
Brewster Buffalos against the Japanese onslaught.
In more recent times, after the last British soldier
left Singapore in 1976, the New Zealand Defence
Force (NZDF) continued their presence in South East
Asia, especially in Singapore, with the 1st Battalion
Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment based at
Dieppe Barracks. The country also supplied the UH-1
Support Squadron, all of which stayed until 1989.
Defence Review Asia understands that during the
formative years of the RSAF's A-4 Skyhawk fleet,
engineers from Singapore regularly had exchanges
with their New Zealand counterparts for technical
advice. Similarly in the late 1990s when the Royal
New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) was evaluating the
leasing of 28 ex-Pakistani Lockheed Martin F-16A/B
to replace their Skyhawk fleet, the RSAF returned the
favour with their intimate knowledge of the Fighting
Falcon. However, the new Helen Clark-government in
2002 scrapped the F-16 deal, allocating budget for
other asset upgrades and replacement.
"It is somewhat surprising to know that there has
never been a formal
between the Singapore
and New Zealand
defence ministers. That
being said, because
of the Five Power
(FPDA), I suspect
there has always been
between the two
appointments over the
years;" said Associate
Loo, Coordinator of
Masters of Strategic
Studies Programme at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam
School of International Studies (RSIS). "Singapore
could never have conducted military training in New
Zealand without such discussions. This is merely the
formalisation of an on-going series of exchanges."
MORE LAND MORE OPPORTUNITIES
At the meeting, Dr Ng also highlighted that Singapore
is eyeing more military training in New Zealand.
Exercise Thunder Warrior allows the SAF's full
range of 155mm howitzers to fire in a training area
twice the size of Singapore, and occasionally to
conduct bilateral training with NZDF soldiers.
During the meeting, both ministers welcomed the
establishment of the annual Air Staff Talks between
the two air arms. On February 25, Brownlee
announced that the RSAF is eying the Ohakea
air base in Manawatu as a potential base for a
F-15SG detachment of up to 500 personnel, and
that the Singapore Government is undertaking a
feasibility study to determine what the move would
entail, including housing and education needs of
families. During the same period, the RSAF gave
the Kiwis a teaser of their two Boeing F-15SG and
a KC-135R at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Air
Tattoo at Ohakea.
Brownlee added that the uncongested airspace of
New Zealand gives the RSAF "an opportunity to fly
more freely clearly exists at Ohakea".
The RSAF has been eyeing new training areas
beyond the continental United States. Recently it was
reported that the Singapore government is building
additional facilities at their Super Puma detachment
at Oakey, Australia, to support CH-47 Chinooks.
This could be made possible as the Republic has
procured ten CH-47F to replace the six CH-47D at
the Peace Prairie detachment in Texas, and the four
extra Chinook could possibly be stationed in Australia,
in close proximity to the Australian Army's fleet of
The author also felt that there could be even more
opportunities for joint mechanised infantry training
with the NZDF, a skill that the SAF is developing and
harnessing with their Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles.
He also does not discount the possibilities for future
air-land exercises in New Zealand.
Professor Loo added that the increasing land
crunch in Singapore, is forcing the government to
open up more land for economic purposes and the
home base of the F-15SG, Paya Lebar Airbase is
slated to be shut down in the 2030s for that reason.
Although the deployment will give the RNZAF close
proximity to new capabilities and hardware, Brownlee
stressed that the South Pacific air force is not re-
establishing their combat arm.
"New Zealand has always had an on-going
interest in Southeast Asia, and the FPDA provides
Wellington with a formal mechanism to remain
engaged in the region. That being said, since the
1980s, it is clear that New Zealand has increasingly
seen the South Pacific as the greater priority." said
Professor Loo. "And given the very limited resources
available to the NZDF, it is only natural that a
greater proportion of their resource should then be
dedicated to the South Pacific."
However the NZDF has been playing its part
outside its backyard. The RNZAF has been regularly
deploying their P-3K2 Orions to Singapore and
Malaysia for FPDA exercises. It gave the operators
more exposure to realistic maritime operations in the
congested Straits, and more recently, a deployment to
the Gulf of Aden under the US-led Combine Maritime
Forces to help fight piracy and human trafficking.
A Primus self-propelled howitzer fires its 155mm gun at Waiouru Training Area.
Credit: Singapore Army
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