Distinguished ladies and gentlemen from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF),
Men and women of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF),
Good morning to everyone and I am delighted to join you today to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the RSAF detachment in Pearce.
This anniversary is a strong symbol of the deep friendship between our two defence establishments, and indeed between Australia and Singapore. We are honoured that many of you are able to be with us today.
Over the weekend, I visited Rockhampton where I had the privilege of participating in the commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the RSAF's Helicopter Training detachment in Oakey. I also visited our soldiers, sailors and airmen who were taking part in Exercise Trident and Exercise Wallaby. Today, I am delighted to be here at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Pearce to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the RSAF’s Pearce Detachment. My programme here in Australia has allowed me to witness first-hand the breadth and depth of our defence cooperation. The SAF and the ADF share a long history of military cooperation, having extensive interactions that include bilateral and multilateral exercises, mutual visits, and professional exchanges. I am especially delighted that the RSAF's presence here in Pearce has allowed people from both Air Forces to build strong friendships through professional exchanges. The RAAF's No. 2 Flying Training School and RSAF's 130 SQN have also taken the initiative to learn about each other's operations and culture through professional exchanges and social events.
We are now making great strides ahead in defence cooperation; under the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), and I am sure that the ties between our countries will continue to grow and deepen.
Tracing the History
Long before the CSP and back in 1993, the RSAF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the RAAF which allowed the RSAF to maintain and operate a Flying Training Institute at RAAF Base Pearce for 25 years. At that time, the local communities in Pearce where the detachment was located, must have wondered why the RSAF would travel so far from home to train here.
Valuable Training Opportunities in Pearce
And if you know Singapore, then you will know why, because we are a small country – the airspace here is 14 times what we have back home. We require much more space than what we have back home in order to conduct the realistic training needed to hone and sharpen the RSAF's operational skills. In 1993, the RSAF thus welcomed the valuable and generous opportunity offered by the Australian Government to train in Pearce.
Over the course of the RSAF's 50 year history, 130 SQN has been the starting point for many RSAF pilots. Today, more than 1,600 pilots, Fighter Weapons Systems Officers and Flying Instructors have passed through Pearce on their way to attaining their wings, and have benefited from the training airspace here and sharpened their pilot competencies. Our 130 SQN over here trains our aspiring pilots, and the Standards Squadron trains our aspiring Flying Instructors. In 2014, Pearce Detachment expanded its role to train our Fighter Weapons Systems Officers. The progressive expansion of the RSAF's Pearce Detachment's mission is only possible because of the close relationship between Australia and Singapore.
In the audience today, there are some who were here from the very beginning. Mr Robert Chua, whom I had the pleasure of turning around to shake his hand just now, and he is here with us – Mr Chua is a Flight Simulator Instructor in Lockheed Martin, supports the simulator training of our aircrew. Robert was the first Commanding Officer (CO) of 130 SQN when it moved to Pearce in 1993. He served as the CO for four years before moving on to become the deputy head of the then-Flying Training School. In 2003, Mr Chua re-joined the detachment as a flying instructor and subsequently joined Lockheed Martin as a Simulator Instructor in 2007 where he continues to guide the next generation of the RSAF aircrew. Mr Chua's stint here is so long and illustrious that his two sons were his trainees when he was here as an instructor. Both his sons graduated from Pearce Detachment and now serve Singapore as pilots flying our KC-135 and the Super Puma helicopter. Robert’s career over the past 25 years closely traces the history of 130 SQN and reflects the legacy of this detachment.
Given the years of mutually beneficial interactions and opportunities in Pearce, last year, Singapore's Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen and Australia's then-Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne renewed and upgraded the Pearce MOU into a treaty that extends RSAF's training in Pearce by another 25 years. 50 years of commitment to this detachment by both our countries sends a very clear and powerful message – which is one of enduring friendship and trust that is truly exceptional.
Professionalism of the RSAF
I am also pleased to know that some things have remained the same in Pearce – the detachment's commitment to high professional standards, operational discipline and a strong safety culture; and more importantly, the belief that training pilots for the Air Force is not just about training flying skills but also about instilling good, right core values. These are the fundamentals on which the RSAF is built. 130 SQN and Standards SQN have done well over the years in anchoring these values in our young trainees and instructors. The professionalism, safety culture and core values that you instil in the detachment personnel here have a direct impact on the success of the RSAF's mission to defend our sovereign skies and our nation. Good work and keep it up.
Thanking the Local Community
As we reflect on the past and celebrate the present, I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the local community in Pearce for welcoming us into their midst and for the hospitality that you have shown to the RSAF and its personnel for the last 25 years. The RSAF's achievements that I outlined earlier would certainly not have been possible without the strong and continuing support from the local community. Earlier this year, the detachment participated in the Anzac Day memorial service with a marching contingent to commemorate the sacrifices of the fallen. It is instances like these which allow bonds between the detachment and the local community to be strengthened. Australia’s warmth and hospitality have definitely made our personnel and their family members feel very much at home, even at such a distance.
Before I conclude, I would like to wish everyone in Pearce the best in the years to come. Keep up your high professional standards, and your good work in building a strong and enduring friendship between our two Air Forces. Given that the RAAF recently also acquired the Pilatus PC-21 (training) aircraft and therefore we now operate the same platforms; this provides even greater opportunities for us in closer collaboration between both Air Forces in the years ahead. I wish the RSAF detachment in Pearce a very happy 25th Anniversary, and to many more years of strong cooperation with the RAAF. Thank you.