The back-breaking days of soldiers lugging heavy combat gear may be numbered.
Singapore's defence engineers have come up with a new type of combat system that could cut the weight of a soldier's load by as much as 40 per cent, allowing fighters of the future to be more agile, yet still able to unleash lethal firepower.
Today, an infantry soldier in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) carries about 20kg to 25kg of combat gear, including his armour protective vest and rifle as well as a suite of combat and communication gadgets, dubbed the Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS).
The yet-to-be-launched range of lightweight equipment includes a sleeker armour protective vest, a digital rifle without the cumbersome power cables and even a cooling unit that can reduce a soldier's body temperature by 15 per cent.
Soldiers can also charge their communication sets, sensors and rifle wirelessly, without the need to carry bulky batteries.
The new equipment is the work of defence contractor Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering.
Its executive vice-president of international marketing Patrick Choy told The Sunday Times: "We want to unburden the soldier and allow him to still be able to overmatch the enemy with less."
Hybrid can fly and dive underwater
Most unmanned vehicles can either fly or swim.
Now local defence manufacturer Singapore Technologies Engineering (STE) has developed one that can do both.
The Unmanned Hybrid Vehicle or UHV can fly like an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and dive like a submersible.
It has a wingspan of about 2m, and can be launched from land or a ship to conduct aerial or underwater surveillance.
The UHV can also land on the water, dive and conduct operations such as detecting and clearing mines, or underwater search and rescue.
It is one of the more than 100 exhibits that will go on display at the Singapore Airshow which starts on Tuesday.
"It's very innovative, I don't think there is any like this in the world yet," said STE's executive vice-president of international marketing Patrick Choy.
The UHV is still in a "proof-of-concept" stage of development, but a working prototype is already available.
The company has also developed unmanned ground vehicles that can carry bulkier weapons.
They will also be small enough to go to areas that may be too risky for soldiers to go on foot.
With more weight taken off their backs, soldiers can also walk longer distances without getting tired.
The new equipment and gadgets will be showcased at the Singapore Airshow, which starts on Tuesday.
ST Engineering will be the largest exhibitor at the four-day civil and military aviation trade show, which opens to the public next weekend.
Also on show will be a newly modified Terrex armoured infantry carrier that will allow troops inside the vehicle to charge their weapons while on the move, and an anti- drone system that can track and take down drones within a 1km radius (see graphic).
Even before the curtains go up on the biennial exhibition, some militaries have shown interest in some of the new equipment such as the wireless charging units.
The Sunday Times understands that demonstrations have been conducted for the SAF, which already uses ST Engineering's ACMS.
Mr Choy said the defence contractor is focusing on customising combat solutions for clients who have fewer boots on the ground but still have to deal with security threats like terrorism.
"We want to provide capabilities (for countries) to shape their future (combat) force," he said.
Militaries around the world are also looking to ease the load carried by foot soldiers. This, in turn, will lower the risk of injuries and prevent the soldiers from being sidelined from combat.
US Army equipment officials are working on a new lightweight, body armour system that can reduce the weight of the combat load by as much as 14 per cent.