Howitzer's specifications meet international standards

The gun commander's seat and emergency stop button (red button, top of picture) seen nearby the seat, as well as a new marking indicating safe areas inside a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer at Kranji Camp III, on April 30, 2019.
The gun commander's seat and emergency stop button (red button, top of picture) seen nearby the seat, as well as a new marking indicating safe areas inside a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer at Kranji Camp III, on April 30, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

We thank Mr Soh Chin Chuan for his feedback on the howitzer gun design (Howitzer gun's cabin design flawed and dangerous, May 10).

Self-propelled howitzers internationally are designed with a similar interior layout.

Militaries from the United States, South Korea and Germany also operate tracked 155mm guns with gun barrel mechanisms and design considerations similar to the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH).

This howitzer, jointly developed by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Defence Science and Technology Agency and ST Engineering, was designed and developed to meet international military standards including MIL-STD-1472 for human factors engineering and MIL-STD-882 for system safety.

It was customised for our local terrain and the SAF's operational needs, and designed to be operated safely by a crew of four.

The human factors engineering design standards set the criteria, principles and practices for safe and ergonomic operations.

Ergonomic analysis includes ensuring that the design of the work space and workflow for all the crew are optimised for operations, training and maintenance.

The system safety standard requires potential hazards to be first identified and the platform designed to reduce these risks.

Safety features such as protective and warning devices are implemented to address residual risks. For the SSPH, there are three emergency stop buttons located at the gun commander, ammo loader and charge loader positions; these buttons can stop all gun movement.

Proper drills and procedures are also developed for the safe operation and maintenance of the platform.

The SSPH prototype platform underwent extensive trials and evaluations from 2000 to 2002, before its introduction into the SAF in 2003. Prior to the death, the platform had been in service in the SAF for 15 years without any reported injury of servicemen due to the gun lowering for maintenance, operating in or firing of the SSPH.

Additionally, more than 1,000 national servicemen and regulars have been trained to operate the SSPH, with 12,500 rounds fired thus far.

We are committed to strengthening our safety systems in the SAF.

Following the incident, additional safety enhancements were implemented, such as including bold markings in the SSPH to further emphasise the safe and hazardous areas.

The SAF will continue to train realistically and safely, and ensure that we do not compromise the safety and well-being of our servicemen.

Ong Cher Howe (Senior Lieutenant-Colonel)

Chief Systems Integration Officer

Singapore Armed Forces

Koh Weng Kin

Senior Principal Engineer

Defence Science and Technology Agency

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2019, with the headline 'Howitzer's specifications meet international standards'. Print Edition | Subscribe