Singapore-US defence MoU signing at the Shangri-La Dialogue 2024. Photo courtesy: Singapore Ministry of Defence

One of the key developments at the Shangri-La Dialogue 2024, this year’s edition of the annual defence summit of Asia, is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Singapore and the United States on harnessing technology.

The MoU was signed on the first day of the three-day summit (May 31-June 2), in the presence of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Singapore Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Singapore is hosting the defence summit, and Prime Minister Lawrence Wong received Secretary Austin yesterday morning. Today, Austin spoke at a plenary session titled ‘United States’ Strategic Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific’.

Before they sat down to discuss the Singapore-US bilateral defence relationship yesterday, Austin and Ng witnessed the signing of the Defence Innovation Cooperation MoU.

It was signed for Singapore by Tan Peng Yam, Chief Defence Scientist, and for the United States by Douglas A Beck, Director of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense.

This MoU allows both defence establishments to identify opportunities to leverage commercial dual-use and emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Autonomy, to solve operational challenges for both militaries.

Lloyd Austin with Ng Eng Hen
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with Singapore Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen. Photo courtesy: Singapore Ministry of Defence

Under this MOU, both sides will work on innovative solutions to address contemporary security challenges, including the development of counter-uncrewed aircraft systems (C-UAS) capabilities, and other technologies to safeguard maritime security.

Emerging and dual-use technologies are rapidly evolving, and defence establishments need to find ways to better harness these commercial technologies at the speed of relevance. This MoU is a significant step for Singapore and the US in strengthening our respective defence ecosystems, particularly the commercial space, to adopt innovation solutions for our armed forces.

Singapore Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen

During his interaction with the US secretary, the Singapore defence minister expressed his appreciation for the long-standing American support for the Singapore Armed Forces training in the US as well as technology access, including the Singapore Air Force’s acquisition and operationalisation of the F-35 aircraft.

The US secretary conveyed his appreciation for Singapore’s consistent support for the US military presence in the region, including the hosting of rotational deployments.

They discussed geopolitical developments and regional security issues, and reaffirmed the importance of continued US engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.