Last week, Australia’s new air force chief paid his introductory trip to Singapore in his current capacity. The development put the focus on the development of the security aspect of ties between the two Asian states.
As I have noted before in these pages, Australia and Singapore have long maintained a security relationship as part of their comprehensive strategic partnership. Beyond aspects such as exchanges and exercises, Australia is among the key places where the Singapore military has conducted overseas training, which it considers critical for its development.
Over the past few years, both sides have continued on with efforts to deepen their ties in spite of the challenges that remain. Among the notable developments in this regard has been the expansion of Singapore’s military facilities in Australia and the upgrading of existing military exercises and exchanges and the launch of new a new dialogue on security issues.
This week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Australia’s air force chief to Singapore. Melvin Hupfeld, the chief of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), was on his introductory visit to Singapore in his current position. Hupfeld had taken up the post in March as part of a broader renewal in top Australia defense positions that included the new Chief of Defense Force Angus Campbell and Chief of Joint Operations Greg Bilton.
Hupfeld’s visit to Singapore, which lasted from August 14 to August 16, consisted of a series of engagements and came right after trips to neighboring Southeast Asian states Indonesia and Malaysia. He met with several officials, including Chief of Defense Force Melvyn Ong, Chief of Air Force Kelvin Khong, and Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen. Per Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during the meeting between Hupfeld and Ng, both sides reaffirmed the progress they had made in deepening relations between their air forces and also discussed regional security issues and the importance of multilateral platforms such as the Five Power Defense Arrangements.
Apart from those meetings, Hupfeld’s visit also included other interactions as well. For instance, per MINDEF, Hupfeld visited Sembawang Air Base on August 15 where he took a familiarization flight on board a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) AS332 Super Puma helicopter.
In comments after his visit, Hupfeld noted on Twitter that he was glad to catch up with Singapore defense officials and that the close relationship between the two air forces is reinforced through aspects such as joint exercises, training, and regular dialogue, which help safeguard regional security and shared strategic interests. Unsurprisingly, neither side publicly disclosed much in the way of specifics about their private deliberations. Nonetheless, interaction such as these will continue to be important to watch to get a sense for how both sides are operationalizing efforts to enhance their defense relationship.