New Zealand is moving forward with investigating proposals to host Singaporean fighter jets at its airbases, with a contingent of jets to deploy to RNZAF Ohakea for a month-long trial.
As the UK Defence Journal first reported back in March the Singaporean Air Force has earmarked RNZAF Ohakea on New Zealand’s North Island as a possible host airbase for F-15 training units. With airspace at a premium in Singapore, they unable to conduct the full scope of training required at home and have therefore moved to base fighters overseas where there is better access to open airspace. Such arrangements already exist with Australia, France and the United States.
In a press release issued today (2nd August) the New Zealand Defence Minister Mark Mitchell announced that six F-16D+ fighter jets, 110 personnel and associated equipment will be deployed to Ohakea from the 30th August to 25th September to conduct flying training exercises hosted by the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Exercises will take place across New Zealand including both day and night flying at both high and low altitudes. New Zealand’s air weapons ranges will also be utilised during the training missions.
Announcing the decision Mr Mitchell highlighted the strength of Singapore’s defence relations with New Zealand and confirmed that both “have an active agreement to explore opportunities for further military co-operation and training”.
Addressing concerns in the in the local community about the impact of the potential permanent basing arrangement the Minister emphasised that “both countries are carrying out a range of studies to enable everyone to make an informed decision on a possible proposal […] This exercise […] will provide valuable data for the process and how basing F15s at Ohakea might work for our Air Force.” He also emphasised that a “productive partnership” would be formed with local government to ensure local communities are represented throughout the process.
It is not expected that any announcement on permanent basing will be made for some time. Potentially impacting decisions will be the New Zealand General Election on the 23rd September as Bill English’s National Government seeks a fourth term in office.