US Air Force Chief Makes First Singapore Visit

Deborah Lee James made her introductory trip to one of America’s key strategic partners.

US Air Force Chief Makes First Singapore Visit
Credit: Lee Hsien Loong Facebook Page

The U.S. Secretary of the Air Force made an introductory visit to Singapore this week.

Deborah Lee James, the 23rd secretary of the Air Force and the second woman to hold the position, visited the city-state from 23-25 August.

During the visit, she called on Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen. According to a statement by Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), the two both reaffirmed the strong bilateral defense relationship as well as discussed the wide range of ongoing defense cooperation.

As I have mentioned previously, the U.S.-Singapore defense relationship is an important one for both sides. For the United States, Singapore has been a key point for U.S. presence in the region, stepped in to support an American military presence following the closure of U.S. bases in the Philippines in 1991 and more recently agreeing to host littoral combat ships and P-8 Poseidon aircraft. For Singapore, the United States is a key producer of defense technology and facilities for military training, including for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) (See: “Strengthening the U.S.-Singapore Strategic Partnership”).

Both sides inked an enhanced defense cooperation agreement (DCA) last November during Ng’s visit to the United States which updated the defense relationship to include new areas like cybersecurity and biosecurity (See: “US, Singapore Ink New Defense Pact”). And during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s state visit to Washington earlier this month, one of the most important items that surfaced on the defense side was the RSAF exploring an increased presence on Guam.

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James’ visit comes just as the United States and Singapore are expected to conduct an annual bilateral table-top exercise between their air forces called Commando Sling, one of a series of exercises that the two strategic partners conduct together.

As part of her visit, she also visited Paya Lebar Air base and was hosted to an official dinner by Permanent Secretary for Defense Chan Yeng Kit.