Singapore and Brunei are set to co-host a military exercise next month focused on maritime security and counterterrorism.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) will host a Maritime Security and Counterterrorism Field Training Exercise (MS & CT FTX) under the banner of the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), which groups 10 ASEAN states along with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States. As I’ve noted previously, the ADMM-Plus is emerging as the premier venue for defense and security issues in the region.
Approximately 3,000 personnel, 18 ships, 17 helicopters, two maritime patrol aircraft along with Special Forces from the 18 nations will be deployed during the exercise, which will run from May 2 to May 12. Participating vessels will sail from Brunei and conduct exercises along the way to Singapore, where a concluding counterterrorism scenario will take place. The exercise is designed to both enhance practical military cooperation as well as to promote interoperability and coordination among participating nations, in part to facilitate a more effective response to regional challenges.
“Hopefully, this exercise will promote and accentuate [sic] the importance and relevance of the ADMM Plus in the regional security structure,” Brunei’s defense ministry said in a statement over the weekend ahead of the exercise. “This has helped to build confidence, promote stable military-to-military relations in the region and enhance practical cooperation between militaries.”
As is customary with complex exercises of this ilk, a series of planning conferences have already been undertaken for months, with the final one occurring in March 2016 in Singapore. At that final planning conference, Singapore and Brunei discussed exercise components, held a table-top exercise to fine-tune details, and even visited one of the exercise locations.
According to Singapore’s defense ministry, at that meeting, RBAF Joint Force Commander BG Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sahat stressed the importance of ensuring maritime security given the role of sea lines of communication in the region’s economic growth. He also highlighted the need for an international counterterrorism exercise in light of the recent string of terrorist attacks around the world.
The work plan for the conduct of the ADMM-Plus MS & CT FTX was originally adopted at the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials’ Meeting (ADSOM) and the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials’ Meeting-Plus (ADSOM-Plus) in Naypyidaw, Myanmar in April 2014, and further welcomed during the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting in May. The initial planning conference was held in February 2015, followed by the main planning conference in October 2015 and the final one in Singapore last month.