Singapore F16 fighter jets are here for a four-week training exercise
Singapore pilots are flying high in the Manawatu sky as top-level talks continue about the Asian nation setting up a permanent air force base in New Zealand.
The Singapore Air Force is at Ohakea Air Force Base, near Bulls, for a four-week flying exercise involving six F16 fighter jets.
In February, the New Zealand Defence Force confirmed officials were in talks with the New Zealand Government to set up a pilots' training base at Ohakea.
Should Ohakea become a permanent training base for the Singapore Air Force, an F15 fighter would be based there.
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Group Captain Nick Olney, commander of the Ohakea base, said on Thursday the Singapore Air Force had come a long way to do some great flying in New Zealand.
He said Singapore's airspace and terrain was vastly different to that of New Zealand.
The exercise would take place over four weeks and Olney said he understood people being curious as they would not be used to hearing the sound of a fighter jet engine.
"It's to see how they integrate into the New Zealand airspace.
"It's a long time since we have had fighter jets here."
This year's Ohakea Air Tattoo was the first time in many years F16 fighter jets had touched down in New Zealand.
While here, the Singapore pilots will do exercises and flying, for which they will head out all over the country.
Olney said feedback from the community had been largely positive.
"We expected a few noise control complaints.
"It's been a while since we've had something of this noise and calibre over the Manawatu."
However, he hoped it would not be the last time.
About 200 serving Singapore personnel and their families would be based in Manawatu if the proposal for the F15 to be based here went ahead, bringing about 500 people into the region.
A NZ Defence Force spokesman said this month's exercise was a useful opportunity to consider how the permanent-base proposal might work.