SINGAPORE - Soldiers in the Singapore Army are now issued with improved helmets and better fitting load-bearing systems (LBS), comprising a vest and belt, to carry their military gear.
Since January this year, full-time national servicemen (NSFs) in combat units such as commando, guards, and infantry have been issued with an enhanced version of the LBS that is more customisable, ergonomic, and with better heat dissipation, with the aim of boosting soldiers' combat effectiveness.
For the first time, two variants of the LBS - enhanced and standard - were developed to replace the previous integrated load-bearing vest, which has been in use since 2009.
The standard version will be given to all other NSFs, such as those in combat support or combat service support vocations, from next year.
The announcement comes as the army marks its 55th anniversary this month. It was established with the passing of the Singapore Army Bill in Parliament in December 1965.
Reporters were shown the new helmet and LBS at Selarang Camp in Loyang recently.
The LBS allows soldiers to carry military gear that they need when training outfield, such as their water bottle, ammunition or communication equipment.
Both variants come with a belt component that is worn via a buckle and a strap that goes on the shoulders. The belt, intended to be worn on the hips to reduce shoulder strain, is worn separately from the vest which covers the torso area.
Both variants feature multiple points of adjustment to ensure a better fit. The enhanced variant also includes a removable body armour carrier.
Since July last year, military recruits have been issued with only the belt for their training. They can be given either the enhanced or standard vests when they go to other units for their subsequent training.
The Ministry of Defence said the LBS is made from a strong yet lightweight material which provides soldiers with better comfort and improves heat dissipation by 30 per cent.
The new helmet, which has been rolled out since October last year, is about 10 per cent lighter than the previous one.
Its high-cut design allows better compatibility with other equipment worn on the head, such as ear mufflers, communication headsets and night-vision devices. It also has an adjustable padding system for a more comfortable fit.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ho Chee Leong, who is head of the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP), told reporters that the new equipment provides soldiers with better comfort and fit, and more importantly, increased combat effectiveness.
"Adopting a human factors engineering approach, we utilise the anthropometric data of our soldiers to inform the design of the various equipment," he said.
The modular design of the equipment also allows soldiers to customise them based on their mission profiles, so that they do not have to wear the full configuration all the time, thus reducing heat strain, he added.
The new helmet offers the same ballistic protection as the previous one, even with the lighter weight and high-cut design, said LTC Ho.
Various agencies such as the army's infantry and supply headquarters, the CESP, the Defence Science and Technology Agency, DSO National Laboratories and ST Logistics worked together to evaluate the enhanced personal equipment, which had been under development since 2016.
Trials were done with hundreds of soldiers from across the army by the CESP, with their feedback taken on board before the new equipment was rolled out.
Servicemen in the SAF Volunteer Corps have also been equipped with the new helmet and the belt component of the LBS since March this year.
There are no plans to equip operationally-ready national servicemen (NSmen) with the new helmets or LBS, except for some artillery units, which will receive the new helmets, as it offers better compatibility with ear protection equipment.
First Warrant Officer Heng Song Po, 38, who is a field trial warrant officer at the CESP, said soldiers appreciate the LBS' enhanced features in heat dissipation and load distribution.
He added that time will be catered during basic military training to ensure that soldiers know how to wear the equipment properly.
Officer Cadet Ajey Jeyakumar, 20, found he was able to rearrange the padding to better fit his head.
"It's good during long missions, as I have to wear my helmet for long periods of time and yet stay comfortable."