Australia says major military exercise underway in Malaysia

SYDNEY, April 26 (AFP) - Australia on Monday said warships, combat aircraft and soldiers were engaged in a major military exercise with Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Britain designed to strengthen regional security.

Exercise Bersama Shield 2010 (BS10) began Monday on the Malaysian peninsula and in the South China Sea and will continue until May 7, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) said.

The operation is designed to enhance the nations' air, ground and naval forces' ability to work together under a 40-year-old regional security initiative -- the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA).

Chief of Joint Operations Command Lieutenant General Mark Evans said the arrangement was an integral part of the regional security architecture and was constantly adapting to the changing threat environment.

"Since the FPDA's formation, the scope of its activities has expanded from air defence to the development of joint capabilities, which has helped to develop greater interoperability among the armed forces of member nations," he said in a statement.

Australian assets involved in the exercise include two ships, eight F/A-18 combat aircraft and an AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

It is not known how many military personnel from the five nations are taking part in the exercise.

MySinchew 2010.04.26