MELBOURNE, Australia – Singapore has deployed its Boeing F-15s to Guam for training with the United States Air Force for the first time, according to the Southeast Asian island state's defense ministry.

A spokesperson from the ministry confirmed that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) "is deploying six F-15SGs and about 100 personnel from 142 Squadron to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for fighter flying training with the United States Pacific Air Forces' 44th Fighter Squadron from 10 April to 11 May 17," also noting that "the RSAF and the PACAF interact regularly through a wide range of activities, including regular bilateral and multilateral exercises such as Exercise Commando Sling and Exercise Cope Tiger. These interactions have enhanced the interoperability and people-to-people ties between the two air forces."

The 44th Fighter Squadron is assigned to the 18th Wing, based at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. Capt. Candice Dillitte, deputy chief of PACAF's public affairs operations division, told Defense News that 14 USAF F-15Cs will be taking part in the exercise, adding that the drill is aimed at "enhancing our interoperability to ensure regional security and stability."

The 44th Fighter Squadron had only recently completed its participation at Exercise Cope Tiger in Thailand, where it trained with elements of the RSAF and Royal Thai Air Force at Thailand's Korat Air Base.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had only last year said the government was exploring the possibility of the RSAF training in Guam. Although it has one of the region's most advanced militaries, Singapore lacks the land and airspace to effectively conduct training, with its main island measuring only 277 square miles.

To drive home that fact, the RSAF detachment commander at last year's Exercise Pitch Black in Australia had told media that there is only a 30 by 60 mile block of airspace above the South China Sea set aside for Singapore-based RSAF air combat assets to train in. The RSAF also has several aircraft training detachments based in the United States, Australia and France while elements of its army also frequently deploys overseas for training.

The RSAF currently operates 40 F-15SGs, which are a variant of the F-15E Strike Eagle fitted with an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar and other customised systems. They currently serve with two Singapore-based squadrons and a joint USAF-RSAF squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, with the latter conducting advanced continuation training for RSAF pilots under the Peace Carvin V program.

Singapore is a close regional security partner of the United States and a strong supporter of the U.S. security presence in the region, providing logistical support for American military ships and aircraft transiting through the region, and hosting rotational deployments of Littoral Combat Ships and P-8 Poseidon Multi-Mission aircraft. U.S. Navy aircraft carriers also frequently conduct port visits at Singapore's Changi Naval Base, which is the only location in Southeast Asia deep enough for them to come alongside.

These close ties were underscored during Singapore defense minister Ng Eng Hen's recent visit to Washington D.C., where he met with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and senators and congressmen from across the political spectrum.

Mattis is scheduled to visit Singapore in June where he will attend the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, an inter-governmental security forum that brings together defense ministers, military leaders and security professionals from the Asia-Pacific region.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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