One of the most destructive hurricanes in recent US memory, Hurricane Harvey, made landfall on the southeast of Texas on August 25. In its wake, the Texas Army National Guard was deployed for search and rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations due to the widespread damage wrought by the hurricane. Fortunately, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) also arrived to aid the National Guard in its efforts. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong ordered the deployment of four RSAF CH-47 Chinook helicopters to Texas, as well as 34 personnel. The Singaporean forces helped airlift troops and evacuees, as well as transport supplies and equipment to both the National Guard and Texans impacted by the hurricane.
Singapore and Texas have a long history of security cooperation. The RSAF’s Peace Prairie detachment, based in Grand Rapids, celebrated the 20th anniversary of its partnership with Texas last year. The RSAF chose to partner with the National Guard in 1995, initially looking for an outside force that could provide the best flight training for its pilots. In Texas, Singaporean airmen participate in bilateral Texas-Singapore exercises, and practice flying in adverse conditions. Meanwhile, Texas Army National Guard troops benefit from the chance to collaborate with foreign military units. RSAF and Texas Army National Guard personnel have previously worked together on disaster relief missions in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Broader US-Singapore security cooperation also remains strong. Aside from the Peace Prairie detachment, the RSAF has four other training detachments in the United States, with contingents in Kansas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The two countries signed a Strategic Framework Agreement for a Closer Cooperation Partnership in Defense and Security in 2005, which enables the deployment of US Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore. In October, Prime Minister Lee plans to travel to Washington, DC to meet with US President Donald Trump, where the two leaders will discuss further expanding their cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.