Trans-Pacific View

US Pacific Air Force Commander Makes First Singapore Visit

General Terrence O’Shaughnessy made his first trip to the city-state this week amid questions about the U.S. role in addressing regional challenges.

US Pacific Air Force Commander Makes First Singapore Visit
Credit: MINDEF Singapore

This week, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander made his introductory trip to Singapore. The visit, which saw him meet leading defense officials in the city-state as well as participate in other activities, was yet another interaction between the two countries in their defense relationship.

As I have noted before, the United States and Singapore both view each other as vital strategic partners, and that extends to the defense realm as well. The United States is a key supplier of defense technology and facilities for military training for Singapore, while the city-state is a valuable regional partner that across a range of issues from counterterrorism to maritime security while also hosting a U.S. Navy logistics command unit that coordinates regional operations (“Strengthening the U.S.-Singapore Strategic Partnership”).

Both sides also interact regularly through a string of exchanges, visits, training and exercises. Indeed, as I noted earlier this month, Singapore has just participated in the latest part of this year’s iteration of Exercise Red Flag – the U.S. Air Force (USAF) premier air-to-air combat training exercise – which kicked off on August 14 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada (See: “US Air Force Exercise Kicks Off With Singapore’s Participation”).

From August 26 to August 30, the Commander of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) General Terrence O’Shaughnessy paid his first visit to Singapore since assuming command last July. During his visit, he met with several defense officials in the city-state including Second Minister for Defense Ong Ye Kung, Chief of Defense Force Lieutenant-General Perry Lim, and Chief of Air Force Major-General Mervyn Tan.

He also had a few other engagements during his visit there. Apart from inspecting a Guard of Honor at the defense ministry, he made a trip with Tan to Paya Lebar Air Base. There, he interacted with personnel from PACAF and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) who were participating in the ongoing Exercise Commando Sling. Commando Sling, which was first held in 1991 and is hosted by Singapore, is the longest-running bilateral air force exercise between the two countries.

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Last year, Deborah Lee James, the U.S. Air Force Chief, had visited Singapore around the same time and had paid a visit to Paya Lebar Air Base just as that iteration of Commando Sling was getting underway.

Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF) did not publicly disclose details about what was discussed during O’Shaughnessy’s visit. But during his trip out to the region, he has had to deal with a series of questions on broader regional developments ranging from North Korea to U.S. activity in the South China Sea to the effects of the collision of the USS John S. McCain with a merchant vessel near Singapore – the fourth major accident in the U.S. Pacific Fleet this year.