Huge gains for SAF by training in US: Dr Ng

The Singapore Armed Forces has gained immensely from training in the United States, where training sites several times the size of Singapore have allowed its troops to overcome land constraints at home, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen as he wrapped up an official visit here.

During his four-day trip, Dr Ng visited a massive training site in Arizona, some 19 times larger than Singapore, to witness the ongoing Exercise Forging Sabre.

The two-week-long integrated live-firing exercise involved 700 Singaporean airmen and soldiers, as well as a whole host of SAF vehicles and weapons such as F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, Apache and Chinook helicopters and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

Dr Ng noted that the rockets have a range of 70km, which is "longer than the length of Singapore".

He added that such training helped to overcome land constraints at home, and stressed that the US remains the Republic's strongest defence partner.

"It's among the very few places, if not the only place, where we can do precision strikes from a long distance," he said to reporters last Friday in the US capital.

The strong military relationship between Singapore and the US had been a key theme of Dr Ng's trip, and he reiterated last Friday the important role of American presence in Asia.

He said at a speech delivered in the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and again at an interview, that the US-China relationship is of paramount importance to regional stability and sets the tone for other relationships in Asia.

He also made the point that the path to stability is not one confined to the realm of the military. Trade and people-to-people links need to be built up too.

Singapore and the US have long-standing military links. The Republic of Singapore Air Force's Peace Carvin II detachment in the US is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Also, since the two sides signed the Strategic Framework Agreement in 2005, both militaries have interacted regularly through joint exercises, operations, training and technological collaboration.

Dr Ng said that during his meetings with various high-level US officials, he had a good exchange of views on the region.

He said Singapore's take on stability in the region was this: "Small nations don't want to choose between great powers and we were very reassured that both US and China said there is no need to choose.

"And, indeed, everyone loses when countries become polarised either by their dependencies or their affiliations."

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