Last week, another iteration of a military exercise held by the members of the Five Power Defense Arrangements (FPDA) – Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom – ended after being hosted by Malaysia. The exercise put a spotlight on the FPDA as a regional defense arrangement.
The FPDA was formed in 1971 to help defend Singapore and Malaysia after their independence following the withdrawal of British forces east of Suez, making it the longest standing multilateral security arrangement in Southeast Asia today.
The FPDA has included a set of exercises carried out by the five countries, which have expanded over time in both their range as well as their complexity. The FPDA began with air exercises and then added land and sea components in the 1970s and 1980s, and it then moved to combined and tri-service exercises in the late 1990s and 2000s. Exercises continue to be carried out each year, such as Bersama Shield which was held from April 26 to May 9 this year, and Suman Warrior which was held from September 19 to 29 last year.
Suman Protector, which began in 2007, is held every five years and meant to be the culminating activity in the FPDA’s exercise cycle. Named from an acronym generated from the first letter of the five country names, it is a command post exercise where a combined joint task force carries out joint operations to address complex threat scenarios. The inaugural Suman Protector was held in 2007 at the Royal Malaysian Air Base (RMAF) Butterworth, and the second iteration was held in 2012 at the Changi Command and Control Center in Singapore.
From September 25 to October 6, the third iteration of Suman Protector was held at the Malaysian Army Wargame Center at Gemas Camp in Negeri Sembilan. This year’s exercise, which saw participation from around 180 personnel, included scenarios related to maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster and relief. Apart from the FPDA members, several non-FPDA ASEAN representatives were also invited to observe the drills.