By David Irvin
The entire Singapore Air Force training operations in America are under review, officials from the Singapore Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Air Force said Wednesday.
But no decision has been made about what will happen to the 428th Fighter Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, which is comprised of about 100 Royal Singapore Air Force personnel, officials said.
“We are not discussing about the detachment in Clovis (exclusively). We are re-evaluating our overall, overseas detachment training needs,” said Col. Bernard Toh in a telephone interview from Singapore.
Toh, a spokesperson for the Singapore Ministry of Defense, said it is standard procedure to re-evaluate training missions in America every few years.
“After a few years you have to sit down and ask, have your needs changed? If our needs have not changed, we will continue to do what we do now,” he said. “But if our needs have changed, obviously there will be some changes.”
Singapore Air Force personnel came to Clovis in 1998 as part of a cooperative training program between the U.S and Singaporean air forces that began in the late 1980s. Throughout the program, Singapore has had troops in America learning helicopter skills, training on KC-135 tankers in Kansas and training on fighters at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix and here in Clovis.
An official statement from the media operations center at the Pentagon underscored the Singaporean message.
“The Royal Singapore Air Force is reviewing the force structure of their overseas detachments and is in consultation with the U.S. Air Force,” the release showed.
Randy Harris, president of Bank of Clovis and member of the Committee of Fifty that promotes and supports Cannon operations, said he was aware of the review process going on, but said there is no way to know the ultimate outcome.
“We’d loved to keep them here and plan to do so for a long time,” he said. “(We) hope that Singapore in their analysis sees that Cannon Air Force Base has the greatest airspace, that’s there’s no encroachment on the airspace or encroachment on the base itself.”
While in Clovis, the Singaporean families have been active in the community, Harris said.
“I think the families have enjoyed tremendously being out west here, and especially the reception the community has given them,” Harris said.
He said several outcomes could ultimately come from the review.
“That final decision could be that they move all of Singaporean Air Force from Luke (Air Force Base) to here, or it could be they move them from Clovis to Luke,” he said.
“(However) it could also mean that they are going to buy some new weapons systems.”
Toh said there is no specific timeline for completing the review process.