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SAF suspends all large overseas exercises, including Exercise Wallaby

SAF suspends all large overseas exercises, including Exercise Wallaby
Soldiers from the SAF Guards battalion and the Australian Defence Force's 7th Australian Regiment carrying out a beach landing in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in 2014, during a preview of Exercise Trident. (image from Straits Times)

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has suspended all large-scale overseas exercises – including its biggest overseas exercise, Exercise Wallaby held in Queensland – because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has suspended all large-scale overseas exercises – including its biggest overseas exercise, Exercise Wallaby held in Queensland – because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just yesterday, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds announced that three local companies have been awarded nearly $6 million in Defence contracts under the $2.25 billion Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative (ASMTI). 

In that announcement, Minister Reynolds also confirmed some of the Singaporean training exercises would be downsized or cancelled, confirming that Operation Wallaby would not take place this year. The SAF has now confirmed that this, as well as other large-scale exercises, has been suspended.

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In a statement on Tuesday (12 May), the Singaporean Ministry of Defence said: “When conditions improve, Singapore may continue with smaller-scale training activities in Australia, in full compliance with their safety requirements to prevent the spread of disease.”

Exercise Wallaby, held at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, was inaugurated in 1990. The exercise is usually held in the latter part of the year, lasting up to two months. Last year’s exercise had involved about 3,000 SAF troops, including those from armour and guards, as well as the Republic of Singapore Air Force. The exercise also allows for bilateral training with the Australian Defence Force. 

The Shoalwater Bay Training Area, which is also undergoing expansion, is about four times the size of Singapore and allows training of a scale and complexity that cannot be done in Singapore. 

The Mindef said Singapore’s bilateral defence ties with Australia continue to be strong.

“The joint development of training areas and advanced training facilities in central and north Queensland will deepen defence cooperation and benefit both armed forces and defence establishments for many years to come,” the ministry said.

Under a treaty signed by defence ministers of both countries in March, the SAF will have access to an expanded Shoalwater Bay Training Area, scheduled to be completed by 2024 and the Greenvale Training Area by 2028.

In total, the SAF will be able to conduct training for up to 18 weeks annually, involving up to 14,000 personnel for 25 years when the training areas are completed.