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Exercise Airguard Anniversary Puts Singapore Brunei Air Force Ties Into Focus

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Exercise Airguard Anniversary Puts Singapore Brunei Air Force Ties Into Focus

Both sides recently commemorated the 25th anniversary of a key interaction within their broader defense relationship.

Exercise Airguard Anniversary Puts Singapore Brunei Air Force Ties Into Focus

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who also holds the defense minister portfolio, takes aim during a previous visit to Singapore.

Credit: MINDEF Singapore

Last week, Singapore and Brunei completed the latest iteration of their joint air force exercise and commemorated the 25th anniversary of the engagement. The exercise once again put the spotlight on the defense relationship between the two Southeast Asian states amid wider domestic and regional challenges underway.

As I have noted before in these pages, Singapore and Brunei have a close defense relationship as part of their broader 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. Singapore’s military also holds training in Brunei as it does with a range of other partners, including the United States and Australia.

One of the manifestations of the bilateral defense relationship is Exercise Airguard between their two air forces. Inaugurated in 1994, the annual exercise features personnel from the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and is held alternately in the two Southeast Asian states. Last year’s iteration of the exercise was held from October 1 to October 12 and featured around 62 personnel from the No 2. Wing Operations Group of the RBAirF and the 18 Divisional Air Defense Artillery Battalion of the RSAF.

Last week, both sides wrapped up the latest iteration of Exercise Airguard. This year’s exercise was held from October 11 to October 25 in Singapore, which was consistent with the alternation of the drills between both countries each year.

Per Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), this iteration of the exercise involved the participation of three RSAF RBS 70 ground-based air defense (GBAD) systems, three RBAirF Mistral GBAD systems, and more than 80 personnel from both air forces as well. No further details were provided on the exact interactions that were conducted as part of the exercise, other than the fact that it consisted of usual components including drills and opening and closing ceremonies.

This year’s iteration of Exercise Airguard was also additionally significant since it marked the 25th anniversary of the exercise between the two sides. Both sides commemorated the milestone within the exercise at the SAFTI live-firing area as part of a closing ceremony co-officiated by RSAF Chief of Air Force Kelvin Khong and Commander of the RBAirF Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sahat.

In remarks at the ceremony, both sides underscored the importance of the exercise as a platform in both honing capabilities and enhancing personnel interactions. Their comments were meant to once again underscore the fact that the drills offer benefits for not just air force interactions but for the broader defense relationship, which they continue to develop.