25 Feb 2017

Singapore considers training its fighter pilots in NZ

4:55 pm on 25 February 2017

Singapore's government is considering New Zealand's Ohakea air base as a training facility for its F-15 fighter jet pilots.

Republic of Singapore Air Force Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle 8306 (05-0004) at Darwin Airport

Singapore Air Force Boeing F-15SG: Two jets are in New Zealand for this weekend's air show. Photo: Eugene Butler / Wikicommons

Up to 500 extra people could be stationed at the base if the move goes ahead.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed a feasibility study was under way.

"I can confirm early discussions have taken place between New Zealand and Singapore about Ohakea being used as a potential training base for Singapore pilots," he said.

Two Singaporean F-15s are at the base this weekend for celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Mr Brownlee said Singapore was eyeing the base because the air space was less congested than in south-east Asia.

"Should the study identify Ohakea as a favourable location, then New Zealand would welcome Singapore's investment in the base as a training facility," he said.

Singapore already has other offshore training bases in Australia and the United States.

Its defence force chief, Lieutenant General Perry Lim, visited Ohakea earlier this month during an official visit.

In January, New Zealand and Singaporean soldiers took part in a live firing exercise called Thunder Warrior at Waiouru.

"Singapore is one of New Zealand's closest friends, and we have a very long and proud defence relationship with Singapore," Mr Brownlee said.

But the Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, said the New Zealand proposal was only in its infancy.

"It's in the very early stages, I mean I have to say it's not just F-15s, we're always looking at new initiatives to build our relationship with Singapore, not just airforce staff but navy and army as well and so F-15 training in New Zealand is just one of many and it's in the very, very early stages."

Air show to attract tens of thousands

Visitors to the air show this weekend were being warned to park as far away as Feilding or Bulls.

More than 100,000 people were expected to descend on the base today and tomorrow to celebrate the air force's 80th anniversary, and organisers wanted to avoid traffic snarl-ups.

There were long queues at the 75th anniversary show in 2012.

Ohakea base commander Nick Olney said there would be a free park-and-ride service from Manfeild Park in Feilding, and from the polo ground in Bulls.

He said a traffic management company had also been called in to help.

Tickets were not available at the base itself - they would have to be bought online, or at the parking areas in Bulls and Feilding, he said.

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