The Australian Defence Forces (ADF), along with other members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), has started a multilateral exercise called Exercise Bersama Shield 2012 in the waters of South East Asia.
Bersama Shield, to be held from 23 April to 05 May 2012, marks the 41st anniversary of the FPDA, a series of bilateral agreements signed between the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore in 1971.
The various stages of the exercise are scheduled to be conducted in Malaysian Peninsula, Singapore and the South China Sea.
Australian Contingent commander wing commander Louis Nuttycombe said the drills will help the ADF to enhance relationships and interoperability with its security partners and ensures the practices and plans are in place to respond to security and humanitarian missions in the region, when called.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has deployed its 12 aircraft including 3SQN F/A-18 Hornets and AP-3C Orions, while the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has fielded two ANZAC-class frigates HMAS Ballarat and the submarine HMAS Collins for the exercise.
In addition, 20 Australian personnel will be operating at Head Quarters – Integrated Area Defence Systems (HQ IADS) at the Royal Malaysia Air Force (RMAF) Base Butterworth in Malaysia, from where the wargames will be commanded.
The last edition of exercise conducted in May 2011, involved deployment of nine advanced guided-missile frigates, one submarine and 57 fixed wing aircraft belonging to FPDA nations.
Bersama Shield 2012 aims to enhance the interoperability of the combined air, ground and naval forces of the FPDA and promote a shared understanding of procedures for air and maritime operations, the protection of the marine environment and disaster relief management.