Asia Defense

Singapore-Brunei Defense Ties in Focus with Army Exercise

The latest iteration of the exercise highlighted some of the ongoing activity in the defense relationship in 2019.

Prashanth Parameswaran
Singapore-Brunei Defense Ties in Focus with Army Exercise
Credit: MINDEF Singapore

Last week, Singapore and Brunei concluded the latest iteration of their army exercise. The visit placed the focus on the defense side of the relationship between the two Southeast Asian states amid wider domestic and regional change.

As I have observed before in these pages, Singapore and Brunei have a close defense relationship as part of their wider bilateral relationship. This is reflected not just in traditional aspects like exchanges, visits, and exercises, but also the fact that Brunei has benefited from the expertise of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), while Singapore’s military also holds training in Brunei as it does with a number of its other key partners.

On the army side, along with a range of other exchanges, visits, and exercises, one of the key interactions between the Singapore Army and the Royal Brunei Land Forces (RBLF) has been Exercise Maju Bersama. The battalion maneuver exercise, which began in 1992, usually involves a mix of exercises and engagements, with the occasional involvement of visiting officials as well. Both sides have framed it as a useful way to facilitate better understanding, promote cooperation in addressing a range of shared traditional and non-traditional security challenges, and improving the training and skills of military personnel in aspects of operations including urban warfare.

This month, the two countries held the latest iteration of Exercise Maju Bersama in one of the first defense-related engagements between them in 2019. The 23rd iteration of the exercise, which followed the separate visit of Brunei’s air force chief to the city-state just days earlier, was conducted between January 15 to January 25 in Mandai Hill Camp in Singapore as scheduled.

As with previous iterations off the exercise, this one consisted of various components, including specifically, professional exchanges, a company-level urban operations exercise, a brigade-level command post exercise, and a closing ceremony with several aspects including a parade inspection, closing remarks, exchange of mementos, and a photo session. Per Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), 443 soldiers from both sides participated from the Singapore Army’s Headquarters 2nd Singapore Infantry Brigade; 16th Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Battalion; 4th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment; and the RBLF’s 3rd Battalion.

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No further details and specifics were provided about how both sides plan to structure future iterations of the exercise, which usually requires months of work. Nonetheless, this iteration was an illustration of how the two countries continue to pursue tangible forms of defense collaboration within their wider relationship into 2019.