RSAF’s Super Puma detachment in Australia inaugurated on 1 September 1998. Based in the Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland, the detachment is the second such arrangement between the two countries. The RSAF’s Flying Training School at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce, Western Australia, was the first. The detachment was made possible by the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the defence ministers of Singapore and Australia in October 1996.
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The MOU allows the RSAF to deploy up to 12 Super Pumas and 250 servicemen and their families over a period of 15 years. A three-year maintenance contract was also awarded to an Australian company, Bristow Defence Industries, to repair and maintain the aircraft in Oakey. The aircrew and groundcrew of 126 SQN moved to their new home in Oakey in September 1998. On arrival, they were immediately involved in a major exercise in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA). The detachment successfully deployed 10 Super Pumas from Oakey to Rockhampton for six weeks to participate in the exercise. The Squadron’s primary role is to meet the Army’s need for helicopter services. The exercise provided excellent training value for the aircrew, while furthering the integration of helicopters into Army operations.
Apart from participating in these exercises, the Oakey detachment serves as an advanced training centre, where operational conversion and tactics training are conducted. The airspace around Oakey is vast, providing much scope for training. The good and predictable weather is a further bonus.
The helicopter community truly values the extensive training opportunities and facilities provided by Australia. Such arrangements have expanded the training boundaries for the RSAF’s Supper Pumas, not just providing access to training areas, but valuable knowledge through interactions with the Australian forces.