UK Typhoons have flown 7000 miles to participate in air defence scenarios with partner nations from the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, it was announced by the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 7 October. 

Over 2,300 military personnel from the FPDA are collecting in Malaysia for the Bersama Lima 2023 (BL23) Exercise from October 2 – 20. The field training exercise intends to train the FPDA defence countries in organising at the combined joint task force level.

The FPDA exists to proved an inter-connected approach to exercises in conventional war fighting and to strengthen coordination between allies, according to a statement from the Malaysian Ministry of Defence, as well as to allow a route to provide guidance and improve the capabilities of the armed forces from Malaysia and Singapore.

In August, the new British envoy to Malaysia identified opportunities to strengthen the defence partnership with Malaysia through the FPDA, first established in 1971 – the world’s second oldest military arrangement. 

In a defence minister’s joint statement in 2020, the five partners of the FPDA reaffirmed their commitment to the series of agreements, welcoming the ‘growth in scope’ that has introduced elements of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as maritime security and counter-terrorism. 

Defence agreements with Indo-Pacific partners are critical to the UK defence policy regarding the region, ensuring support for future joint operations. Under the terms of the FPDA, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) are co-tenants of Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Butterworth, an active air force station in Penang that hosts the Headquarters of the Integrated Area Defence System (HQIADS), the cornerstone of the FPDA, where a number of UK personnel are also stationed.

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The UK’s only vitiable permanent commitment to the FPDA is the British Defence Singapore Security Unit that manage the wharf as Sembawang and the Senoko Oil Fuel Depot.