Singapore has asked the New Zealand Government “to consider accommodating F-15SG fighter jet training at Ohakea long-term”, a statement released by Minister Mitchell on August 2 reads.
“At the moment both countries are carrying out a range of studies to enable everyone to make an informed decision on a possible proposal,” Mitchell said in the statement.
“But we have similar values and it could be a good fit.”
And ahead of a possible basing of F-15s at Ohakea, the RSAF is sending six F-16D+ fighters to the former home of RNZAF fast jet operations for a four-week long training deployment from August 30 to September 25.
While based at Ohakea, near Palmerston North on New Zealand’s North Island, the F-16s will carry out training exercises across New Zealand, Mitchell said, including day and night operations and using New Zealand weapons ranges.
“Singapore is one of our closest defence partners. All three services of the New Zealand Defence Force regularly train and exercise with their Singaporean counterparts, and it will be a pleasure to welcome this group to New Zealand,” Mitchell said.
“Our two countries have an active agreement to explore opportunities for further military co-operation and training and this exercise aligns perfectly with that.”
The F-16Ds will be supported by 110 personnel.
“This exercise is timely, in that it will provide valuable data for the process and how basing F-15s at Ohakea might work for our Air Force,” Mitchell said.
Singapore has South-East Asia’s most advanced air force, but the tiny island nation lacks airspace and ranges for training, and consequently already bases fighter and trainer aircraft permanently in the US (F-15SGs at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and F-16C/Ds at Luke AFB, Nevada), France (M-346 jet trainers at Cazaux) and Australia (PC-21 turboprop trainers at RAAF Base Pearce). It also bases Chinook and Apache helicopters in the US and Cougar helicopters at Oakey, Queensland.
Singaporean F-15s and F-16s are also regular participants in Australia’s biennial Pitch Black exercise series, and for the first time in April this year the RSAF deployed F-15SGs to Andersen Air Base, Guam, for exercises with the US Air Force.
Should the F-15SGs be based at Ohakea they will represent the first permanent basing of fast jets in New Zealand since the retirement of the RNZAF’s A-4K Skyhawks in 2001.