The Singaporean government has reportedly earmarked the Royal New Zealand Air Force Base at Ohakea, on New Zealand’s North Island, as a potential overseas base for one of its F-15 squadrons.
Speaking to the NZ Herald Gerry Brownlee, the New Zealand Defence Minister, confirmed that a feasibility study was underway to assess the suitability of the base and what logistical requirements would be required such as housing, education and airbase facilities.
The move could involve up to 500 Singaporeans moving into the region.
If Ohakea is found to be suitable under the study, a formal proposal will be taken to both governments for approval. New Zealand and Singapore maintain a key strategic alliance within the region through the Five Powers Defence Arrangements and have both hosted each other’s forces before.
Singapore operates similar overseas fighter detachments in France, the United States and at RAAF Pearce in Western Australia. These bases offer much greater flying opportunities than Singapore’s congested airspace and are thus ideal for training.
RNZAF Ohakea is currently home to the air force’s training aircraft and operational helicopter squadron. It was previously home to the RNZAF’s fighter and fast jet trainer squadrons. The RNZAF has not maintained fighter assets since 2001 when they were axed by the Clark government on cost grounds, a policy maintained by the Key and English governments.
Brownlee highlighted the strong strategic and economic benefits to New Zealand for the proposals. Particularly through 500 additional people moving into the Manawatu region and providing a boost to local business.
At this stage no set timeframe for the move has been announced. Brownlee however confirmed that there was a deadline for the proposal to be submitted and that he anticipated the whole process would take a couple of years to allow for preparations to be made before the squadron is deployed.