Singaporean soldiers bomb Waiouru in training exercise

Five-hundred Singaporean soldiers have taken over Waiouru Army Base for an annual training exercise dubbed "Thunder Warrior".

The tiny Southeast Asian nation has brought over its sophisticated weaponry, which it can't use back at home because it simply doesn't have the space.

One such weapon is Singapore's self-propelled Howitzer 1 Primus. It can fire six rounds per minute and hit targets 30 kilometres away.

But there's a problem - Singapore is so tiny that its soldiers have to come to New Zealand to practise using their weapons.

"The training area in Waiouru is nearly twice the size of all of Singapore," says Singapore's Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen.

If they did use them on home soil, they'd end up bombing Malaysia, or Indonesia, or one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The New Zealand military doesn't own anything like this kit.

"While I'm envious in some ways, we don't need these or want these in the NZ Army," says Lt Gen. Donald Jones.

It's not a joint exercise - no Kiwis take part, with Singapore given full access to Waiouru's training area.

Joining them this week is top brass - Dr Ng has flown in with counterpart Gerry Brownlee.

"We're delighted to be able to host them. Singapore is one of the closest military relationships NZ has," says Mr Brownlee.

It's the 20th year of Thunder Warrior, and it also marks 50 years of defence relations with Singapore - both ministers having an inaugural bilateral.

"We talked about how to deepen the relationship and from our point of view, to see if there could be more training opportunities," says Dr Ng.

The Singaporean soldiers will head home next week, and then it's another 12 months before they're back for another Waiouru bombing blitz.