Singapore is eyeing the Ohakea air base as a potential base for one of its own Air Force squadrons of F15 fighter jets.

Up to 500 people would be stationed in or near the base in the region if the squadron moves to Ohakea.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee recently confirmed that the Singapore Government was undertaking a feasibility study to determine what the move would entail, including housing and education needs of family.

That study needed to be completed before any proposal could be put before the Singapore or New Zealand governments.


Mr Brownlee said that Singapore's position in south-east Asia, so close to Malaysia and near Indonesia, meant that air space was very tight.

"New Zealand doesn't have the same congestion so the opportunity to fly more freely clearly exists at Ohakea."

The Singapore Air Force has other overseas bases - in France, the United States and in Western Australia's Pearce Air Base where a squadron is based.

Mr Brownlee suggested the benefits to New Zealand would be strategic and economic.

"It would mean there would be up to 500 people based out of Ohakea ... so that has a big economic effect on the local community," he said.

"But the benefit of strengthening the strategic alliance with Singapore is the most important aspect."

Singapore and New Zealand have a longstanding defence relationship. The New Zealand Army stationed a battalion in Singapore for 20 years until 1989. And both are members of the Five Power Defence Arrangement along with Britain, Australia and Malaysia.

Some of Singapore's F15s took part in the Air Force Tattoo at Ohakea last month.