Singapore and the United States have held their first bilateral naval exercise off the waters of Guam, where they conducted anti-submarine, anti-surface and anti-air warfare drills.
Over 850 personnel from the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the United States Navy (USN) took part in Exercise Pacific Griffin, which was held from Aug 19 to Sept 2. The exercise involved six ships from both navies, as well as the USN’s P-8 Poseidon aircraft, Hawker Hunter fighter jets and a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk naval helicopter. The two-week long exercise is part of “ongoing efforts to explore new training spaces and opportunities for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)”, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement on Monday (Sept 4).
The US and Singapore first announced in August 2016 that they were exploring the possibility of the Singapore Armed Forces conducting training in Guam in the western Pacific, including “a potential long-term training detachment” for the Singapore air force. In April this year, the RSAF sent six F-15SG jets and about 100 personnel to a Guam air base for training with a squadron from the United States Pacific Air Forces. Guam, a US island territory in the Western Pacific, has long been a way station for passing jets and submarines.
Plans are afoot, according to US media reports, to turn the island into a hub for about 5,000 US Marines who will be tasked with responding to conflicts and disasters in East Asia. While the Singapore and US navies regularly train together in bilateral and multi-lateral military exercises, Exercise Pacific Griffin marked the first time they are doing so near Guam. Ships from the Republic involved in the exercise included the frigates RSS Stalwart and RSS Supreme, as well as the Endurance-class landing ship tank RSS Endurance.
The US vessels that took part included the littoral combat ship USS Coronado, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold, and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos. According to Mindef, the RSN also conducted unilateral live-firings on the sidelines of Exercise Pacific Griffin, including a designated “time-on-target” harpoon missile live-firing that involved the two RSN frigates firing a missile each to hit the same target simultaneously. Separately, the RSS Stalwart and the Sikorsky naval helicopter neutralised a simulated underwater threat during a torpedo firing exercise.
“The operating environment in Guam gave us the opportunity to hone our edge and push our operational envelopes,” said Colonel Saw Shi Tat, commander of the RSN’s First Flotilla and commanding officer of the 185 Squadron. Added Captain Lex Walker, commodore of the USN’s Destroyer Squadron 7: “The complexity and sophistication of Exercise Pacific Griffin is a direct result of the many accomplishments and lessons we’ve learned from working together with the RSN for many years.” The RSN was last in Guam in 2014 during a multi-national group sail to Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise.