SAF's biggest overseas exercise is back Down Under
//Report by Thrina Tham/ Photos by Chai Sian Liang
Four times the size of Singapore – that's the vast space the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) works with at Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) in Queensland, Australia, where Exercise Wallaby is currently underway.
Held from 7 Sep to 15 Oct over two training frames, this year's edition involves about 4,300 personnel and some 450 platforms from the Army, Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) – the largest numbers since 2016.
Exercise Wallaby is the SAF's biggest unilateral overseas exercise.
As part of the second frame of Exercise Wallaby, the Army and RSAF will be conducting an air-land integrated live-firing with the motorised battalion for the first time since 2012.
The SAF also conducted an air-land-sea ship-to-shore replenishment training on board a Landing Ship Tank out at sea.
This year's Exercise Wallaby will feature the first motorised battalion live-firing since 2012, involving manoeuvre live-firing by the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) and Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicles (PCSVs).
It also marks the first live-firing by the Belrex PCSV Mortar in the exercise, which will be supported by strikes from the RSAF's AH-64D Apache attack helicopters and F-16D+ jets.
The vast training space in SWBTA enables the SAF to train at a scale, level and complexity that cannot be replicated back in Singapore, said Exercise Director Brigadier-General Cai Dexian.
"This fully maximises the training value that SWBTA offers and is critical to the SAF in advancing its transformation as a modern and integrated fighting force," he said in a media statement.
Commander of Frame 2, Colonel (COL) Fan Mun Poh said in a media brief on 8 Oct: "The terrain at SWBTA allows us to do so much – there are hills, undulating and cross-country terrain."
He added that there is also a vast airspace for Air Force training, as well as littoral (near the coast) space with connectivity to beaches for the Navy. "It's a very exciting playground for us… It's (like) a Happy Meal."
COL Fan also noted that Exercise Wallaby is not a one-country endeavour. "We're very happy that Australia has been (cooperating) with us in this since 1990.
"As the armed forces mature and become more integrated, the plot of land (here) has evolved with our training needs. We have gone through joint development with the Australians (for us) to be able to do more (and to) do complex training."
Frame 1 of the exercise saw the completion of missions like an Armour training evaluation; Guardsmen training on the Lightstrike Vehicle Mark II; and an airdrop by the RSAF's C-130 plane.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (NS) Muhammad Malik bin Badaruddin commands the Combat Service Support Battalion – the unit that acts as a "7-11" to the brigade in their field of operations.
"We have maintenance and supply capabilities and – to a degree – (can even support) medical surgeries on the field. Our main objective is to support the brigade and make sure they can sustain their fight," shared the 40-year-old.
Preparations for him and his NSman (Operationally Ready National Serviceman) battalion began much earlier, before their three weeks in SWBTA.
"As a Commander, I had many meetings to make sure the admin was done right, the training objectives set, and we would have all the things we need when the guys are here," said LTC (NS) Malik, who is the Chief Technology Officer at car-sharing platform GetGo.
"It's not easy, I must say, but thankfully I have a great boss who is supportive of NS. I also have a great team...and that helps in me being away."
As a Divisional Air Defence Exercise Planner, Captain (CPT) Mohamad Faisal bin Mohamad Aziz assists in the planning of air-land integrated missions.
These included troop-lift missions, where soldiers were transported by the CH-47F Chinook helicopters over a large training area for a quick insertion to the edge of the "battlefield".
This is completely different from CPT Faisal's role back home – where he oversees peace-time air defence.
"The different training here allows us to do more complex missions in the land battle concept," said the 31-year-old. "For example, it includes the RSAF's Ground-Based Air Defence Systems moving out with the ground units, giving them air-defence protection.
"While it may sound simple, it involves a lot of coordination – from mission planning to actual deployment on the ground."